First Touch #12: U-M to Begin Postseason Push at Big Ten Tourney
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MGOBLUE Tori McCombs
MGOBLUE
Tori McCombs
MGOBLUE

Oct. 29, 2012

THIS WEEK -- BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
Wednesday, Oct. 31
-- vs. Wisconsin (Bloomington, Ind.), 7:30 p.m.
Live Stats | Live Video (fee) | Tournament Central | Tournament Bracket

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The University of Michigan women's soccer team (13-4-2) returns to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in seven seasons this week, opening as the No. 3 seed against No. 6 seed Wisconsin (12-6-1) on Wednesday (Oct. 31) at 7:30 p.m. inside Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. It is Michigan's 14th Big Ten Tournament appearance in program history and first since 2005, when host U-M advanced to the final before falling.

All four quarterfinal matches will be streamed online through the Michigan All-Access player (for a fee). Should Michigan advance, it will play the winner of (2) Ohio State/(7) Nebraska at 12:30 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 2). The championship match will begin at noon on Sunday (Nov. 4). The two semifinal matches and championship match will be shown live on the Big Ten Network.

WOLVERINE BITES

• This marks Michigan's 14th Big Ten Tournament appearance and first since 2005. The tournament was not held in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The Wolverines have won two Big Ten Tournament titles in program history (1997, 1999). The 1999 Big Ten Tournament was also held in Bloomington.

• Despite the loss to Illinois last Saturday (Oct. 27), Michigan finished in the top three of the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. The Wolverines won seven Big Ten regular-season matches for only the third time in program history (1997, 2002).

• With her first-half goal against Illinois, junior forward Nkem Ezurike is now tied for fourth in program history in career goals (31). She shares the spot with former Wolverines Jessica Limauro (1995-98) and Therese Heaton (2002-05). Kacy Beitel (1997-00) holds the program record for career goals (44). Ezurike is also seventh in program history in career points (70).

• Five players were named to CollegeSportsMadness.com's All-Big Ten teams. Fifth-year senior Haley Kopmeyer was named Defensive Player of the Year and named to the first team as a goalkeeper. Ezurike (forward), junior Meghan Toohey (midfield), senior/junior Holly Hein (defense) and junior Shelina Zadorsky (defense) were all named to the second team. The official All-Big Ten teams will be released on Wednesday (Oct. 31). [ Release ]

• The Wolverines are 12-3-1 when scoring first and have only been shut out twice this season -- Aug. 30 at Cal State Northridge and Sept. 28 vs. Iowa. They are also 3-1-2 in overtime this season.

• As a team, the Wolverines have scored 33 goals this season, the highest total in a single season since 2005 (39). Thirteen different players have scored at least one goal.

• The Wolverines have only allowed 13 goals in 19 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.

OPPONENT PREVIEW
Wisconsin is 12-6-1 on the season and finished 5-5-1 in Big Ten play, earning the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament. The Badgers dropped a 2-1 decision to Iowa in their regular-season finale last Saturday (Oct. 27) in Iowa City. Prior to that loss, Wisconsin had won five straight matches, outscoring opponents by a 12-5 margin. The Badgers are led by Cara Walls, who has 10 goals on the season, and Paige Adams and Monica Lam-Feist, who have six each.

Michigan is 9-12-4 all-time against Wisconsin, including a 3-3 mark against the Badgers in Big Ten Tournament action. The last time the two teams met in the Big Ten Tournament was Nov. 6, 2005, with Wisconsin winning the championship over Michigan, 3-1, in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines won the regular-season match-up, beating the Badgers, 3-0, on Sept. 23 in Madison. Ezurike scored two goals in the contest, and freshman Christina Ordonez added a third. [ Recap ]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Tori McCombs
Junior
Midfielder
Londonderry, N.H.

Q: Last Saturday's loss to Illinois was a tough one to take, but this team has been in a similar situation earlier this season after the Long Beach State loss and went on a 10-match undefeated streak. What was the message after the loss and in practice yesterday?
A: It was definitely a wake-up call for us. We almost felt like we were settling for second and third place. We weren't happy with that. We felt like we weren't focused for the full 90 minutes, and that's what we're trying to do in practice in preparation for the Big Ten Tournament. We want to play hard for the full 90 minutes.

Q: Talk about the role you're playing now in being the first player off the bench. You have starting experience, but when you come in, the energy gets ratcheted up another level. Is that one of your biggest assets as a player?
A: Everyone laughs about how much energy I have, so in that case, I definitely think it's an asset. As far as being the first off the bench, it's not that I'm settling. I'm working every day to try and get back in the starting lineup. At the same time, I think coming off the bench is a huge asset to the team. I'll do whatever it takes to win, so if that means I'm coming off the bench, I'm fine with it.

Q: Now that it is the postseason, do you approach these matches with a different mentality than you would during the regular season?
A: I think we know that these matches are basically must-wins. We're still fighting for that NCAA Tournament spot. We need to have that 'fighter's mentality' we've had all season. If we focus too much about what's at risk, we won't play our game. We've just got to calm down, take things one step at a time and play the game we know we can play. If we can do those things, we'll be fine.

Q: Obviously the Illinois loss stings, so how do you put it out of your mind and move on?
A: When we got to practice yesterday, Greg told us it was a new season. We can't dwell on what happened in the past. Yes, we finished in third, but in our minds, we haven't accomplished anything yet. Anyone can win this tournament. Just because Penn State is the No. 1 seed doesn't mean they will win. We're going to fight all the way and show everyone what a good team we are.

Q: A lot of what our fans see is just how the team performs on the field, but what is the team like when you aren't playing soccer? We've talked all year about the team chemistry being as best as it's ever been.
A: It's definitely the goofiest bunch of people I've ever met. Every single person is so laid back and upfront with each other. Things that happen on the field don't get taken off the field. I've got a relationship with everyone on our team. That's what makes our team so special. We don't hold anything against each other and that makes everything so much better.

LAST TIME OUT
Michigan scored the first two goals of the match but yielded three unanswered goals, including a penalty kick in overtime, in a 3-2 loss last Saturday (Oct. 27) at the U-M Soccer Stadium. It was U-M's first home loss of the 2012 season. [ Recap ]

UP NEXT
Monday, Nov. 5
-- NCAA Tournament Selection Show (NCAA.com), 4:30 p.m.

OTHER RELATED LINKS
Captain's Blog: The Yellow Armband
Six Women's Soccer Players Receive All-Big Ten Honors
Features: Holly Hein (Big Ten Network) | Nkem Ezurike (MGoBlue.com)

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423


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