Oct. 23, 2012
The No. 24-ranked University of Michigan women's soccer team (13-3-2, 7-1-2 Big Ten) closes out the regular season on Saturday (Oct. 27), hosting Illinois (8-7-2, 5-4-1 Big Ten) at 6 p.m. inside U-M Soccer Stadium. The match has been designated a Maize Star event. It is also Senior Day, as Michigan will honor seniors Emily Jaffe, Haley Kopmeyer, and Clare Stachel on the field prior to the contest.
Tickets for the match are available through the U-M Athletics Ticket Office, either by calling (734) 764-0247 or at www.MGoBlue.com/tickets.
Michigan is guaranteed to finish in the top three of the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 and will be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week. It can clinch second place (and the No. 2 seed) with a win on Saturday over Illinois or an Ohio State loss to Indiana on Friday. A loss or draw to Illinois and an Ohio State win over Indiana would put Michigan in third (and the No. 3 seed). [ Standings ]
The Wolverines are ranked No. 24 in this week's NSCAA/Continental Tire D-I Collegiate Rankings, down seven spots from last week. This is the fifth consecutive week Michigan has been ranked. It is also ranked No. 19 in the RPI. The Wolverines entered the rankings back on Sept. 25 following a 3-0 road victory over then-No. 14 Wisconsin, which was the first time U-M was ranked in the top 25 since Sept. 2005.
The Wolverines have won seven conference matches only twice in program history (1997, 2002). The program record for most conference wins in a season is eight, which happened in the 1999 and 2001 seasons.
In conference play, junior Nkem Ezurike is tied with Maya Hayes (Penn State) and Tiffany Cameron (Ohio State) for most goals scored (10). Five of Ezurike's goals have counted as game-winning goals. She is also third in shots (46) and fourth in points (20).
With her goal against Penn State (Oct. 21), Ezurike tied Ruth Poulin (1994-97) for sixth all-time in program history for career goals (30). Her next goal would put her in a three-way tie for fourth (31) with former Wolverines Jessica Limauro (1995-98) and Therese Heaton (2002-05). Kacy Beitel (1997-00) holds the program record for career goals (44).
Fifth-year senior Haley Kopmeyer made a season-high 12 saves against Penn State (Oct. 21), giving her 68 on the season. She leads all Big Ten goalkeepers in goals-against average (0.54), shutouts (nine) and shutouts per game (0.50), is second in save percentage (.872) and is tied for third in saves. In the national ranks, Kopmeyer is 12th in goals-against average and 16th in save percentage.
As a team, the Wolverines have scored 31 goals this season, the highest total in a single season since 2005 (39). Thirteen different players have scored at least one goal.
A win or draw against Illinois would give Michigan its second undefeated home slate in program history. The first and only time that happened in program history was 1997 (8-0-0).
Junior/sophomore Keyana Thompson-Shaw earned her second career start last Sunday (Oct. 21) against Penn State. She played the full 110 minutes against the Nittany Lions. It was her second start of the season, the other coming back in Michigan's season-opening match against Fordham on Aug. 17. Sophomore Jen Pace also played against Penn State in what was her first game action since Sept. 9 at Oakland.
The Wolverines have only allowed 10 goals in 18 matches this season and are on track to set a new program record for fewest goals allowed in a season. The current record is 18, which was set in 2010.
Illinois is 8-7-2 on the season, including a 5-4-1 record in Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini beat Nebraska, 4-1, last Sunday (Oct. 21) in Champaign, Ill., getting two goals from Shayla Mutz and one each from Vanessa DiBernardo and Niki Read. DiBernardo is Illinois' top offensive player, leading the team in goals (six). She is also a member of the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team.
Michigan is 11-7-1 all-time against Illinois. The two teams have split the last four meetings, including a 3-2 Illinois win last season in Champaign, Ill. (Oct. 29, 2011). The last Michigan victory over Illinois came on Oct. 31, 2010, in Ann Arbor (3-2).
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
| Clare Stachel
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q: You and Haley (Kopmeyer) have been here through the entire rebuilding process. Talk about where the program was during your first year to where it is now in your fifth?
A: For one, we started out playing home games on Eastern Michigan's field and now we have a beautiful stadium. I also think we've got a heck of a team and we have depth. That's not to slight any of the players that came before us, because they all contributed to this program. We've got a much better appreciation of who we're playing for and that's the Block M on the jersey. We knew when we got here that there would be some rebuilding to do. My freshman year, we had four wins and now we have 13. That's huge, and it just shows how far we've come as a program.
Q: What's the most important thing you've learned about yourself over these past few years?
A: That there's way more than athletics. When I was growing up, my mood was determined by how I performed on the field. One of the biggest things I've learned is that there's so much more than what's happening on the field. Athletics is just one small part.
Q: You are one of only two players to be named team captain three times. Your teammates obviously hold you in very high regard, but what has being a part of this team meant for you?
A: There are two things. First, I love being able to help my teammates through the same types of things that I went through, both the challenging times and good times. Second, in terms of the team, all I've wanted to do is leave Michigan a better place than how I found it, whether it's on the field or off, and I think I've accomplished that.
Q: Let's talk about Saturday's match against Illinois. There's still a lot to play for, but it's also your last home match. How are you preparing for the emotions of the day?
A: I don't know if you really can. To be honest, I'm looking at it as another game I get to play. I don't think it's hit me yet. You just have to live in each moment. If I'm so worried about the future, I can't focus on what I'm doing now. I feel like I've given everything I have. I don't feel like I'm leaving with more to do. I've experienced a lot, given a lot, and gotten a lot in return from Michigan. I feel like it's time to move on to the next stage of my life.
Q: This season's turning point came back in September after that loss to Long Beach State. A heartbreaking loss like that could really derail a team. How did you get the team to rally?
A: We really sat down and had a talk. We were upset and disappointed at how that game turned out, but we realized that we have to take matters into our own hands if we want to accomplish our goals. It was going to take hard work, focus and responsibility. We have our chances and it's our responsibility to finish it. We made the choice to do that right then and there.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan wrapped up its final regular-season road trip last weekend, losing 3-1 to Ohio State (Oct. 18) and playing a 1-1 draw with No. 4 Penn State (Oct. 21). [ Recaps: Ohio State | Penn State ]
Wed-Sun., Oct. 31-Nov. 4 -- at Big Ten Tournament (Bloomington, Ind.)
OTHER RELATED LINKS
Captain's Blog: The Yellow Armband (Wednesday)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423