With many of Michigan’s fall “non-revenue” teams a few weeks into their seasons and entering conference play, it’s time for a look around the horn.
Field hockey (record: 4-0)
On September 7, the Wolverines woke up to their first-ever No. 1 national ranking in program history. Three days later, they celebrated by backing it up in style.
Michigan absolutely demolished Ball State, winning 12-0. Per MGoBlue, it was the team’s largest margin of victory in 41 years and most goals in a single game since 1980. The Wolverines fired 39 shots (33 on goal) and earned 14 penalty corners to the Cardinals’ zero in both categories. There are routs, and then there was what happened at Ocker Field last Friday.
The Wolverines haven’t allowed a goal in their last three games — a 2-0 win against No. 11 Wake Forest on Aug. 29, 8-0 over Central Michigan on Sept. 5 and the Ball State game. Their first game? That was a statement 3-2 win over defending national champion North Carolina on Aug. 27.
When your leading scorers from last season are tied for sixth on the team, that’s usually a problem. Not so with Michigan. While Sarah Pyrtek and Kathryn Peterson each have just one goal apiece, the Wolverines have flexed their depth. Sofia Southam already has seven goals on the season, including five in the first half alone against the Cardinals. Tina D’Anjolell has scored four, and freshmen Abby Tamer and Alana Richardson, along with Erin Reilly (who played just three games last season), have each scored twice. Thirteen of 21 outfield players to appear in a game have scored at least once.
Obviously, the Wolverines’ previous two opponents aren’t very good. But Michigan hasn’t missed a beat since its run to the national championship game last spring.
The Wolverines are in New York this weekend, taking on Albany Saturday at 1 p.m. and Cornell Sunday at 11 a.m. (that game is streaming on ESPN+). Their quest for a repeat Big Ten title begins on September 24 with a home game against Michigan State.
Women’s soccer (record: 6-1-1)
Michigan is loaded with talent, and it’s mostly come together. Fifth-year midfielder Nicki Hernandez has led the way with five goals and two assists. Senior midfielder Raleigh Loughman has three goals and three assists. Seven Wolverines have found the scoresheet. Meanwhile, Hillary Beal (.852 save percentage) has been as strong as ever in goal.
It’s a strange thing to say about a team that’s won six of its eight games. But it’s easy to look at the Wolverines statistically — or watch them play, for that matter — and come to think they should be even better.
Put it one way: Michigan has outshot its opponent in every game this season, often doing so by truly massive margins. Example: a 1-0 win over Central Michigan on Aug. 29 in which it took 26 shots to the Chippewas’ one. Overall, the Wolverines are averaging 22.3 shots per game (9.4 on goal) compared to their opponents’ 7.5. They’ve earned three times as many corner kicks as their opponents. They’ve been called for offsides — a good measure of how often they’re getting in dangerous positions — over eight times as frequently.
That’s partly a function of the aggression with which Michigan plays: the Wolverines sometimes attack relentlessly with less regard for the quality of chances they get than the quantity. Sometimes they bludgeon opponents into submission this way, like during their 5-0 season-opening win over a good Butler team. On the flip side, there’s the fact that nine of their 16 goals came in two games, and four of their wins have come by only one goal.
Consistency was an issue for Michigan last season, but so far this fall, the Wolverines’ superior firepower has overcome those concerns and gotten off to a solid start. We’ll get our first chance to see how that holds up against Big Ten play Friday when they host Illinois (5 p.m.).
Men’s soccer (Record: 3-2-1)
One-goal games have been Michigan’s specialty so far. In fact, five of the Wolverines’ six games have been decided by a single tally — the other being a 1-1 draw in their season-opener against Detroit Mercy.
In a way, the Wolverines are falling prey to the same troubles their female counterparts on the pitch are. They’ve outshot teams 87-42 this season and taken 28 more corner kicks. However, Michigan’s put just 35 percent of its shots on target, compared to opponents’ 48 percent. The Wolverines may be earning more opportunities consistently, but are giving up better-quality chances and more clinical finishing.
Is any of this cause for major concern? Perhaps not. Michigan came away from home games against No. 24 Duke and No. 12 New Hampshire feeling it was right there with two ranked opponents — “I think we absolutely tore them apart,” coach Chaka Daley said of his team’s second-half performance against the Wildcats. Six different players have scored the Wolverines’ seven goals and three more have provided assists, meaning everyone’s contributing. Encouragingly, underclassmen like Bryce Blevins, Quin Rogers and Jason Bucknor have impressed, helping to take the load off veterans such as Marc Ybarra.
Still, there’s room for Michigan to improve, starting with Friday night’s Big Ten opener at Maryland (BTN, 6:30 p.m.). On that note, local fans can next check out the Wolverines at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 against Notre Dame.