The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 BY AUSTIN FOX T he Michigan women's soc- cer team is having an excel- lent 2016 season, posting a 9-3-3 overall record and a 5-2-2 mark in Big Ten play. With a pair of regular-season contests to go before the conference tournament, the Wolverines stood fourth in the league. The Maize and Blue have picked up two wins over ranked opponents so far this season, with victories against No. 12 Notre Dame Aug. 25 and No. 19 Rutgers Sept. 29, while they played No. 15 Minnesota to a draw Oct. 16. U-M won its first five confer- ence games, which set a school record for the best-ever start to Big Ten play. Michigan dropped its next two games, though — at Illinois and at Northwest- ern, respectively — but that hasn't deterred head coach Greg Ryan. He explained why his team has been so successful to this point in the season. "The kids have just really played as a team this year," he said. "We were missing a few of our players before the season started, and there were some questions about what we'd be able to do. Our number one thing has been our team defending; until [U-M played Illinois and Northwestern], we'd done very, very well. That weekend, we did not do as well in that regard. "That's been our core — holding teams to very few chances and very few goals, and we've been able to pro- duce goals and get some key wins." Another big reason for the Wolver- ines' success this season has been due to the veteran presence on the team. Though Michigan features just seven seniors on its roster, there has been no lack of leadership. "Our captains have been great lead- ers for us," Ryan said. "[Senior] Madis- son Lewis at the back, [senior] Jessica Heifetz in the midfield and [redshirt junior] Ani Sarkisian at forward — from back to front, we've just had great senior leaders." When asked what the single biggest factor has been to his team's success so far this season, though, Ryan im- mediately responded "team defend- ing." That was proven in U-M's Oct. 13 and Oct. 16 games, a 1-1 tie against Wisconsin and 0-0 draw versus No. 15 Minnesota. Perhaps what's been most impressive about Michigan's season, though, is the adversity it had to overcome. Redshirt freshman Kelly Sweeney and junior Taylor Timko each suffered season-end- ing knee injuries before the campaign even began, and sophomore Sura Yekka chose to temporarily depart the team and compete internationally. All three likely would have won starting jobs. "With the three players out who are really key for us, we thought it was going to be a very challenging year," Ryan explained. "The players have really exceeded my expectations. They've done so by starting with a 9-3-1 record, playing great soccer and   OLYMPIC SPORTS HIGH HOPES Women's Soccer's Hot Start Leads U-M's Standout Fall Performances Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Jackson posted six shutouts in her 13 starts during No. 25 Michigan's 9-3-3 beginning to the season. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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