As the fall seasons wind down, every week is critical. This past week saw extreme success in field hockey, and solid performances in women’s soccer. Meanwhile, some of the individual sports had their best weeks of the fall season, with men’s golf and both tennis teams finding success. We’re inching towards the end of the fall Big Ten seasons, but things will only get bigger come tournament time.
This Week’s One Thing
Men’s Soccer v. Michigan State, Tue Oct. 29, 7p
It’s time for the Battle of Big Bear. The stakes are always high when the Wolverines play the Spartans in any sport, and with a sweet trophy on the line the men’s soccer edition of the rivalry is no exception. MSU limped through their non-conference schedule without winning a game, but are 3-1-1 in the Big Ten, good for third. The Spartans need every win they can get to even have a prayer at making it back to the NCAA Tournament, where they were national semi-finalists last year. MSU has won Big Bear three straight years, with two wins and retaining after a tie last year. Michigan is having the better season and is in a position to pounce. This has become one of the best rivalries in Big Ten soccer, and a cold October night will be the perfect setting to see it continue. If you can’t make it, it’ll be on TV on BTN.
Fri Oct. 25: Volleyball v. #7 Minnesota, 6p, BTN
Sun Oct. 27: #7 Field Hockey v. #11 St. Joe’s, Noon, ESPN+
Tue Oct. 29: Men’s Soccer v. MSU, 7p, BTN
Most other home and conference events on BTN+.
Last Week: ITA Midwest Regional Championships, East Lansing, MI: Pairone Singles Champion, Cerdan/Jones Doubles Champion
Michigan women’s tennis swept the tournaments at the Midwest Regional Championship, and both champions will earn berths in the ITA Fall National Championships. In singles, Guilia Pairone won the championship. Pairone went up 5-0 in the first set before winning 6-2. She raced out to big 5-1 lead in the second set again, before giving up three straight games. Needing a break at 5-4 to avoid triggering a win-by-two situation, she won an incredible rally and was able to break OSU’s Shiori Fukada for the set win and the championship.
In doubles, Alyvia Jones and Andrea Cerdan took the championship, winning an 8-5 single-set final against Shiori and Luna Dormet of Ohio State. Cerdan also made the semifinals of the singles tournament. Women’s tennis is off this week.
Last Week: ITA Midwest Regional Championships, Columbus, OH: Styler semifinalist, Fenty/Siimar finalists
The men also participated in a Midwest Regional, theirs taking place in Columbus. The tournament was highlighted by Andrew Fenty and Mattias Siimar’s run to the doubles finals, where they fell to a duo from Ohio State. Fenty and Siimar won the first set had multiple match points in the second set, but OSU fought back every time to force a tiebreaker. OSU won the tiebreaker comfortably, at 10-6. While Fenty and Siimar both made the singles quarterfinals, singles action was highlighted by freshman Ondrej Styler, who made the semifinals. His semifinal loss went three sets, and with the doubles final loss and Styler semifinal loss no Wolverines are guaranteed berths in the fall national championships.
Fenty, Siimar, and Styler, as well as the Fenty/Siimar pair, are all eligible to be selected as at-large bids for the ITA Fall National Championships. In doubles, 10 at-large selections will be made by the committee, with at least five coming among regional runners-up. In singles, they will create a formula based on preseason rankings, a ranking system called UTR, and the unreleased second set of singles rankings. Styler is 19th in UTR, and may have a shot at one of the 21 at-large bids.
Men’s tennis is also off this week.
#7 Field Hockey (12-3, 5-1 B1G)
Last Week: 1-0 W v. #2 Maryland, 3-0 W v. Penn St
Upcoming: Fri Oct. 25, 3p v. #18 Rutgers, Sun Oct. 27, 12p v. #11 St. Joe’s, ESPN+
Field hockey was on a four-game winning streak heading into the most important game of it’s season, a home contest against the #2 team in the country, Maryland. Maryland had only lost one game, and was undefeated in conference play. That changed Friday night when Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort beat multiple defenders, using great stick work to get around a Terrapin on the endline and sneak in a shot from a tight angle:
The 1-0 lead held up for the entire second half, with goalkeeper Anna Speiker recording four saves. Michigan kept it going Sunday, beating Penn State 3-1. Emma Tamer scored two goals, and Fernandez Lacort shared an assist with Kathryn Peterson on both goals. Fernandez Lacort and Tamer were named Big Ten Offensive and Defensive player of the week, respectively. Michigan now has the inside track at the conference regular season championship and the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which would earn them the tournament’s only bye. Michigan was bumped from #9 to #7 nationally.
Michigan has two more ranked matchups this weekend, both on the road. They will head to New Jersey to take on a Rutgers squad that is still ranked but is only 3-3 in conference play. They’ll then take on St. Joe’s in Philly, and try to pick up a Top 15 win that would be crucial for their RPI, and their chances of hosting early-round NCAA Tournament action. The St. Joe’s game will be streamed on ESPN+ (the $5/month subscription service, a cable login will not access the game).
#16 Women’s Soccer (12-3-1, 22pts (7-1-1) B1G)
Last Week: 3-2 W v. MSU
Upcoming: Thu Oct. 24, 7p v. #21 Rutgers, Sun Oct. 27, 1p v. Maryland
If not for field hockey, women’s soccer would be the hottest team in the athletic department. Projected to finish fifth in the conference, they are still alive in the title hunt and are likely to finish no worse than second. On top of that, the Wolverines have climbed all the way to #16 in the country. Michigan played just one match last week, picking up a rivalry win against Michigan State. In East Lansing, Michigan returned to a formula it used to pick up some of its early upsets: two quick goals and a bunch of defense. Hannah Blake and Meredith Haakenson both scored within the first 12 minutes, and the 2-0 lead held for almost 50 minutes before the Spartans responded with two quick ones of their own. With under five minutes to go in a 2-2 game, Sura Yekka picked up the ball off of a bad clearance from Michigan State, and scored the winning tally.
Michigan has two matches left, and needs just 1 point to guarantee hosting a Big Ten quarterfinal. The Wolverines could still win the Big Ten if Wisconsin were to get less than six points in their final three games, but can guarantee themselves second with a win over #21 Rutgers on Thursday. A win Thursday could set up a celebratory mood for the regular season closer Sunday against Maryland, as the team surges into the postseason.
Men’s Soccer (7-4-3, 8 pts (2-1-2) B1G)
Last Week: 2-1 L v. WMU, 1-0 W @ Notre Dame
Upcoming: Fri Oct. 25, 6p v. Wisconsin, Tue Oct. 29, 8p v. MSU
Men’s soccer played non-conference matchups this week, splitting the week but not necessarily in the way you’d expect. Michigan lost a tight home contest against Western Michigan. Western scored within the first two minutes, and the 1-0 margin held until halftime. Just out of the half, Nebojsa Popovic scored his team-leading 7th of the season. Unfortunately, the Broncos broke the tie just a minute later, and the 2-1 margin was the final.
Michigan then travelled to South Bend, where they played a tight defensive matchup that looked sure to go to overtime. With under two minutes left Jack Hallahan drew a penalty kick on a rough tackle that was just barely inside the box. Notre Dame argued it should be a free kick, but the penalty was given and Popovic put it home. About 30 seconds later Notre Dame believed they had earned a penalty kick due to a handball in Michigan’s box, but instead the Irish were shown a red card for dissent. 1-0 was the final in a match that will certainly bolster Michigan’s tournament resume.
Michigan plays Wisconsin on Thursday, the current occupiers of the Big Ten’s basement. The battle for a top four seed and Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal hosting rights is very tight, with Michigan in fifth. Wins over Wisconsin and a win in the Big Bear game Tuesday would vault Michigan into third, and could clinch hosting depending on other results.
Last Week: Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, Dallas, TX: 4th of 12, Charlie Pilon T1 overall
Michigan men’s golf closed its fall season in style, finishing fourth as a team in Dallas. Ranked teams SMU, Baylor, and Liberty lapped the rest of the field, leaving Michigan in position to hold off Charlotte and New Mexico as “the best of the rest.” Wolverine Charlie Pilon tied for first overall, at -8. His four-way tie was the first tournament win for a Wolverine since March of 2018, which was also a tied win by Pilon. Pilon remained under par every round, and below par rounds were also contributed by Brent Ito and Ben Dunne. It was the first time this season that the team score remained below par.
The Wolverines will return in March.
Upcoming: Fri-Sun Oct. 25-27, Landfall Traditional, Wilmington, NC
The women’s golf team will finish it’s fall season by returning to North Carolina for the second straight tournament. Michigan will see several of it’s conference-mates, including Indiana, MSU, Penn St. and Purdue. Michigan finished fifth in this tournament last year, and with many ranked teams in the field they’ll hope to recapture some of that magic for a strong performance.
Last Week: 3-1 L v. #8 Penn St., 3-0 W v. Rutgers
Upcoming: Fri Oct. 25, 6p v. #7 Minnesota (Crisler Center), BTN, Sun Oct. 27, 1p v. #6 Wisconsin
Volleyball lost a tough one Friday night against #8 Penn State, the first match of a run of highly ranked match-ups. While the first two sets were individually close, Penn St. was able to take them both for the 2-0 lead. Michigan rallied back to dominate the third set 25-16, but dropped the fourth and the match. That Sunday Michigan returned to Cliff Keen Arena for the first time since August, and they celebrated with a 3-0 sweep of Rutgers.
Michigan has a huge weekend coming up, hosting both #7 Minnesota and #6 Wisconsin. Michigan is still within shouting distance of the Big Ten title but would likely need both to stay on that path. They’re also still stuck in the “Also Receiving Votes” section of the polls, and a win could get them back into the real poll. Friday night’s game is at Crisler on BTN, and they’ll return to Cliff Keen Sunday.
#8 Women’s Cross Country
Last Week: Pre-National Invite, Terre Haute, IN, 4th of 37
Upcoming: Fri Oct. 25, 5p, EMU Fall Classic, Dexter, MI
For the second time this season women’s cross country visited the site of this year’s national championships. Michigan was the third-best ranked team in the field at #7 and came away in fourth, while #8 Washington won the meet. As she had in every previous meet this season, Ericka VanderLende led the Wolverines, coming in fifth overall. The Wolverines were bumped down one spot to #8.
For many Wolverines that was the close of their regular season, while others will get in one more this Friday in Dexter.
#17 Men’s Cross Country
Last Week: Nuttycombe Invitational, Madison, WI, 11th of 33
Upcoming: Fri Oct. 25, 5p, EMU Fall Classic, Dexter, MI
Michigan finished 11th out of a stacked field in Madison. Every team that finished ahead of Michigan was ranked, with only Tulsa, UCLA, and hosts Wisconsin ranked below Michigan. The Wolverines finished ahead of three teams that outranked them, and moved up one spot in the final rankings before the Big Ten Championships.
Like the women, many Wolverines will rest and prepare for the Big Ten Championships, while others will race in Dexter this weekend.
Last Week: Head of the Charles, Boston, MA
Upcoming: Sun Oct. 27, 9a v. OSU and MSU, Novice only
Michigan’s varsity rowing team finished it’s fall season last weekend, competing at the historic Head of the Charles race in Boston. This is not a strictly collegiate meet, with Michigan competing with the U.S. National Team and other non-college clubs. Michigan’s first eights finished 9th, with their second eights finishing 21st, or 7th and 16th among American colleges.
While the varsity will return in March, there is one final novice meet this Sunday, against OSU and MSU.
Upcoming: Wed Oct. 30, 7p v. Northwood (Exhibition)
If you’ve made it this far I promise that this is the only time women’s basketball will be buried this low. They’ll open their season with an exhibition against D2 Northwood. Northwood is not a GLIAC power, but it will be interesting to see the prospective starting 5.
Last Week: 10-9 W v. Dayton, 5-1 L v. Dayton, both 7-inning exhibitions
Michigan opened it’s fall ball season with a split against Dayton. The game 1 win came courtesy of a walk-off homer from Freshman Jimmy Obertop, and Jordan Nwogu contributed an inside the park home run of his own. The Wolverines will return to action in a couple weeks, with a World Series rematch against Vanderbilt.