The Eastern Michigan University women’s soccer team traveled to Ann Arbor on Friday evening to try and secure the first victory against the University of Michigan in its programs history, but instead brought an 8-1 loss back to Ypsilanti.
The Eagles looked shell shocked just minutes into the game when the Michigan attack pressed the Eastern defense onto their heels.
Just seven minutes into the match the University of Michigan struck first, sending a shot on goal for senior Megan McCabe to parry away, but the rebound went directly to Michigan forward Lulu Haidar who slot the ball home for an early lead.
One minute later, the Wolverines doubled its lead when the Eagles defense was unable to clear the ball from danger, leaving McCabe vulnerable and allowing the Wolverines to go up 2-0 less than ten minutes into the match.
Once Eastern got accumulated to the Wolverine attack, the Eagles were able to defend against the heavy physicality and control of possession that Michigan was imposing on the team.
The Eagles best attacking chance of the evening came from the foot of red-shirt freshman Kristin Nason in the 42nd minute when Michigan goalkeeper Megan Hinz failed to clear the ball and it fell perfectly for Nason with no defenders around her. Nason took her chance on net, but put the ball right into the keepers hands to end the threat.
At halftime, the Eagles were down 2-0 to their Washtenaw County rivals, but found themselves in more trouble for the entire second half. Michigan scored goals in the 54th, 55th, 62nd, 68th, and 70th minute before Eastern could get on the board themselves.
Having come into the game and injecting a shot of energy and possession into the midfield, junior Stef Barcelos was taken down and forced out of the game by a heavy challenge just outside of the box, setting up a free-kick opportunity for the Eagles.
Junior forward Madison Hirsch stepped up confidently and put the ball over the defensive wall and into the top corner with an impressive curling shot for the Eagles lone goal on the evening.
One minute later, Michigan added another goal to the tally and the game finished with a scoreline of 8-1. Michigan garnered 22 shots in the game, with 13 being on goal. Eastern took nine chances, with five testing the Michigan keepers.
Senior goalkeeper McCabe conceded eight goals, but also made five saves against the high-powered Michigan offense, looking strong against corners and intimidating in the box.
Despite the result, coach Scott Hall was positive about the direction his team is heading.
"We have to keep building and we have to keep playing these teams, this result hurts, it bruises our egos," he said. "But what we do in training tomorrow and Sunday and how we get a result against Butler will show how our group really is.
"Hopefully this doesn't shatter us, and I don't think that this will shatter us, I think this team is ready to keep pulling things together. We can get better"
Hall also believed that losing to Michigan and playing tough teams outside of the Mid-American Conference could potentially help his team with in-conference matches.
"If we don't prepare ourselves for good teams then when push comes to shove we won't be prepared in the end," he said. "I still think we can have a successful season"
The University of Michigan is slated to win the Big Ten Conference, which is seen as a higher level conference than the MAC, but Hall didn't want his team sit back and defend for 90 minutes.
Hall sent his team onto the pitch in Ann Arbor with the same strategy that they will attempt to use for the rest of the season.
"These games have a different difficulty than teams we play in the MAC, Michigan is a different beast, but if we don't push against Michigan then we won't push against a MAC team," Hall said. "It's a completely different level and we'll get better. There's still excitement for a successful season."
The Eastern Michigan University women's soccer team will hit the road this week to play four out of conference away matches. On Monday EMU will travel to Indianapolis to take on Butler University. The Eagles will then venture to Chicago to play DePaul University on Friday and then Loyola-Chicago University on Sunday. Eastern Michigan will play Illinois State University on Sept. 4 before returning to Scicluna Field on Sept. 6 to face-off against Illinois-Chicago University.
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman