Wisconsin women’s soccer falls to Michigan at Big Ten tourney; now waits to see if they make NCAA tournament
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Despite a closely played match, the No. 6-seeded University of Wisconsin women’s soccer team fell to No. 3 Michigan Wolverines, 2-0, in the opening round of the 2012 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament at Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., Wednesday evening.
“This was a very physical match, but the thing I liked was we matched their physicality early on,” UW associate head coach Tim Rosenfeld said. “We knew coming in that Nkem (Ezurike) was a physical striker and we would have to find a way to deal with that.
“I thought that physicality wore us out a little bit. And then in the second half we had a couple of good chances early and a few mistakes and they capitalized on it.”
The Badgers (12-7-1) outshot Michigan, 12-11, falling for just the second time all season when tallying more shots than their opponent.
• Wisconsin moves to 12-7-1 overall.
• Senior GK Lauren Gunderson recorded four saves.
• Badgers made their 13th Big Ten Tournament appearance.
Senior GK Lauren Gunderson played all 90 minutes, recording four saves but conceding the match’s only scores.
Wisconsin saw its aggressiveness go unrewarded as Michigan (14-4-2) dominated the Badgers in corner kicks, 8-3.
A 2012 first team All-Big Ten honoree, Ezurike was the Badger’s main focal point in their defensive strategy. Wisconsin decided to solidify its backline by keeping Ezurike, along with all of Michigan’s forwards, in front of the center backs the entire first half and saw the strategy come to fruition as the team’s headed into the intermission with a scoreless tie.
An evenly played first half set the stage for an aggressively played final 45 minutes of action. It took Michigan two passes before the Wolverines netted the contest’s first score in the 55th minute.
Following three-consecutive corner kicks from Michigan, Holly Hein sniped the ball into the back of the net from seven yards out, ending the match’s scoreless tie and giving the Badgers a one-goal deficit.
“In the first ten minutes of the second half we decided to add pressure and by doing that we compromised the integrity of our backline,” Rosenfeld said. “We were willing to give that up in order to create more offensive opportunities and I thought we did but again it comes down to that one chance — that one opportunity and good goal scorers they take advantage of it and Nkem did.”
Ezurike extended Michigan’s lead to 2-0 as Meghan Toohey found her streaking down the middle of the field for the 27-yard score. Gunderson came out of net to defend, attempted the save 10 yards out and Ezurike tapped the ball as it took a slow roll into the net from just outside the box.
The Badgers’ postseason hopes now lie in the hands of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
“We’re going to train and prepare like we are in the NCAA tournament,” Rosenfeld added. “We will find out on Monday whether the soccer gods are thinking about us.
“But I think if everything goes to plan as far as conference tournaments, we should be in — you never know but we are going to prepare like we have more games to play.”