Nearly perfect defense is not enough
With three minutes left on the clock, tensions ran high as the Michigan women’s soccer struggled to clear the ball. Seconds later, the Fighting Irish buried a cross and scored the game-winner, leaving the stadium awestruck (0-1).
Up to that point, goalkeeper Hillary Beall’s two saves characterized the game. She skillfully blocked each of Notre Dame’s shots, even tipping one just above the net. Supported by a strong back line, Beall led the Wolverines into halftime tied 0-0 — still in the game despite a slow offense.
“I think we just need to get into the game and settle down,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein. “(We) went into halftime with a really good fire creating some good opportunities.”
Despite these seemingly solid opportunities, none were successful — leaving the defense to pick up the slack.
The Fighting Irish took advantage of their strong possession deep into the first half. Notre Dame midfielder Brooke VanDyck sprinted down the field en route to a breakaway opportunity. Sophomore defender Janiece Joyner then joined VanDyck from across the field and managed to regain possession for the Wolverines — helping Beall avoid having to make yet another save. Michigan’s well oiled defense skillfully combated the Fighting Irish’s offense.
“We spend a lot of time on our defensive organization. We look to attack,” Klein said. “Our style of play is about having possession and playing what the game gives you.”
Yet, the last three minutes eclipsed all the impressive defensive moments. Notre Dame midfielder Luisa Delgado headed off a cross from several yards out to forward Kiki Van Zanten, who evaded the Wolverine’s defense and snuck the ball into the bottom-left corner of the goal. Once Van Zanten passed the defensive line, it was too late.
Despite a nearly perfect defense, the Fighting Irish had so much possession that one slipped through. Michigan’s defense was not enough to stave off a Notre Dame victory.
“I think the backs all played really well,” Klien said. “I give a lot of credit to all of them. I thought Hillary Beall had some really great saves. And then we had some moments where there was just a little bit of breakdown. But that’s what you’re going to have in a high quality game against an opponent like Notre Dame.
“We just need to tighten up and just be smarter and not give the ball away.”