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October 17, 2012 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-10-17

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2B - October U7, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com I

Building women's soccer into Michigan's best team

eall have to start
somewhere.
Haley Kopmeyer
stepped underthe overhang of the
auxiliary brick building alongside
the Michigan field hockey'field.
She crossed her arms as the rain
dripped off her jacket. Her nerves
were as bad as
mine.
It was Oct.
27, 2009, and n
Kopmeyer,
then a redshirt
freshman
goalkeeper,
was the lone
bright spot for STEPHEN J.
the Michigan NESBITT
women's soc-
cer team.
Ryan Sosin, the team's sports
information director, had suggest-
ed the story - my first article at
the Daily - given that Kopmeyer
had collected two Big Ten Rookie
of the Week honors in as many.
weeks and had tied the program's
freshman record for shutouts.
Kopmeyer leaned against the
brick fagade of the buildingcthat
the women's soccer team used as
its locker room as the U-M Soccer
Complex was being built. There
were no soccer fields in sight. The
team's practice field was the out-
field of the baseball diamond at
Ray Fisher Stadium.
The questions were horribly
bland, and the answers weren't
much better.
I saved everything back then. I
saved my notepad, thoughI forgot
to actually write anything down. I
saved the audio recording. I saved
every version of the story the edi-
tors back at the Daily made that
night..
But I always wanted to try it
again.
On Tuesday, I got that chance.
Kopmeyer, a Troy, Mich. native,
laughed when I recounted the
story.
"Thanks for giving me another
try," I said.
"Absolutely," Kopmeyer
responded. "Four years later,
right?"
A few years sure changes a lot.
The story of the Michigan
women's soccer team can't be told
without explaining its foundation.
The foundation, meaningtthe pris-
tine pitch built as the centerpiece
of the U-M Soccer Complex.

Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer has been with the Michigan women's soccer program through thick and thin as a four-year starter in Ann Arbor.

The transformation started
when Ryan, coming directly off a
three-year stint as head coach of
the U.S. Women's National Team,
sat down to interview for the head
coaching vacancy at Michigan.
He was told that an overhaul
was coming, and Michigan soccer
was'getting a new home farther
down State Street.
In February 2008, Ryan took
the job and the promise. He
quickly wrapped upa recruiting
class that included Kopmeyer and
current fifth-year senior Clare
Stachel. Then he went looking for
the next year's class.
But he had nothing to show off.
Since the building of Glick
Field House displaced the soc-
cer programs from their original
location and hiccups in the con-
struction process had delayed the
building of the U-M Soccer Com-
plex, the Wolverines had nowhere
to call home.
The new stadium down State
Street lay dormant.
"There was some issue with
permits and frogs," Kopmeyer
said.
Frogs?
"Some environmental issue."
Some home games were held
on Eastern Michigan's campus,
others were at Canton High
School.

"We played a night game under
the lights (in Canton) and I looked
up to see four telephone poles
with about six bulbs on each one,"
Ryan said. "You could hardly see
the ball."
And practices? He gave an
embarrassed laugh.
"Rich Maloney pitched in," le
said.
Maloney, then the Michigan
baseball coach, gave Ryan the
keys to Ray Fisher Stadium. The
Michigan women's soccer team
practiced on
the outfield -
grass.
Michigan "It's ni
went 4-10-5.r
He finally day. Th
pulled together J
a class of eight denyi
freshmen. Only
one - redshirt
junior defender
Holly Hein - stuck around.
"Our first recruiting class was
basically Holly Hein because we
had almost zero money left to
recruit with that year," Ryan said.
The home games that season
were played on a muddy practice
field next door to the U-M Soccer
Complex construction zone.
It was a fabricated fttbol atmo-
sphere, but Michigan had nothing
better to offer.

Ryan hired a drummer to
take a seat on the sidelines by
the practice field at home games.
He'd drill a steady rhythm for two
hours, collect his pay and leave.
The drummer looked like a fanat-
ic, but he was just doing his job.
"We were just trying to do any-
thing to make it a bit more excit-
ing," Ryan said.
Michigan went 6-9-5.
Ryan was ready, the project's
completion was in sight. He blan-
keted the nation and even crossed
the border to
look for top-tier
recruits across
ght and North America.
His pitch was a,
ere's no promise.
"We recruit-
ng it." ed some of the
top players
from around
the country
and international players with
the promise that the stadium
was goingto be there when they
showed up in 2010," Ryan said.
But he never knew if the prom-
ise would hold.
"I used to go out every day and.
see if the grass had started to
sprout yet," Ryan said. "I'd notice
every brick they'd put down."
One by one, the commitments
started pouring in - Shelina

Zadorsky, Meghan Toohey, Tori
McCombs, Kayla Mannino, Nkem
Ezurike, Shelby Chambers-Garcia
- high school seniors buying into
a vision, a promise provided by a
former national team head coach.
"Thank God they did," Kop-
meyer said. "They started a snow-
ball effect ofbringing in really
talented classes."
When the freshmen stepped
onto the field that year, the grass
had finally sprouted. The last
bricks were laid. Ryan had kept
his promise.
Michigan went 10-5-4. Then
9-8-2 the next fall.
It's all changed. The only con-
stants for the Michigan women's
soccer team in the past four sea-
sons have been Ryan, Kopmeyer
and Stachel.
Michigan has a new home, a
new coach and a new team.
There's no drummer anymore.
On acold, blustery evening last
Wednesday, more than 1,000 fans
took in Michigan's 2-1 overtime
victory over Michigan State.
Denard Robinson was there, pos-
ing for photos with young Spartan
fans; Jordan Kovacs and Devin
Gardner also attended. Half of
the Michigan ice hockey and field

hockey teams were in the student
section.
"We went from 'home' stadi-
ums away from campus where
the only people there were our
parents to Wednesday night when
we played Michigan State and
the ... place is packed," Kopmeyer
said. "It's night and day. There's
no denying it."
The talent level isn't compa-
rable.
"Coming in, we just had a
complete program overhaul,"
Kopmeyer said. "The next couple
years we were trying to do things
but didn'tquite have the person-
nel.
"We've had some greatplayers
come through here - that's not to
discredit anybody - but collec-
tively we just didn't have what it
took to be a Big Ten contender."
This time, for the firsttime,
Michigan is exactly that: a Big
Ten contender at 13-2-1 overall,
7-0-i in the conference and riding
a program-best 10-game unbeaten
streak.
Kopmeyer, with the help of an
impenetrable back line, has back-
stopped the Wolverines to nine
shutouts this fall while break-
ing the Michigan all-time saves
record early in September.
"I think Haley is one of the
most improved goalkeepers I have
ever seen," Ryan said. "She was
a good goalkeeper coming out of
high school, but her progression
at Michigan has just been phe-
nomenal."
And the team? Well, it just
might be the best team you've
never seen. Ryan and the Wol-
verines boast a resume that bills
them as the best team on campus
this fall.
Michigan faces Big Ten jug-
gernaut Penn State on Sunday
in what likely will be a match of
top-20 teams vying for the Big
Ten crown.
That reminds me of my second-
ever story. It was a week after my
first one. Michigan was playing
the Nittany Lions in the season
finale on the muddy practice field
it called home down State Street.
Michigan never registered a
shot on goal. Penn State scored
twice and Kopmeyer made seven
saves.
This program has come a long
way since then. Butthey had to
start somewhere.

6

0

- Nesbitt'can be reached
at stnesbit@umich.edu.

Michigan back line
shuts down Boilers

Michigan volleyball impresses
alumni in rout of Northwestern

By ALEJANDRO ZUNIGA
Daily Sports Writer
The No. 21 Michigan women's
soccer team paired a smothering
defensive effort with a persistent
attack to overwhelm Purdue, 2-0,
on a windy Sunday afternoon at
the U-M Soccer Complex.
The Wolverines' defense,
which had L -UDU - --
uncharac- MICHIGAN 2
teristically ----
surrendered goals in two of the
past three games, returned to its
dominant form against the Boil-
ermakers (2-5-1 Big Ten, 7-7-2
overall). The back four allowed
just two shots, and never let Pur-
due pressure senior goalkeeper
Haley Kopmeyer.
Junior defender Shelina
Zadorsky was pleased with her
unit, which stymied attacks,
controlled the pace of the match
and helped the Wolverines (7-0-
1, 13-2-1) transition quickly to
offense.
"We did our job today," she
said. "We learned from the errors
we made."
Offensively, Michigan routine-
ly found holes in the Boilermak-
ers' back line. The Wolverines
took six corner kicks, 24 shots -
10 on target - and found the back
of the net twice.
Michigan's attack broke the
scoreless tie in the 20th minute
courtesy of junior midfielder
Meghan Toohey. After junior for-
ward Nkem Ezurike got around
a defender and sent a low cross
through the 18-yard box, the ball
deflected out to an unmarked
Toohey. The midfielder one-
timed a shot past the diving Pur-
due goalkeeper for her third goal

of the season.
Despite a plethora of offensive
chances, the'1-0 score held until
senior midfielder Emily Jaffe
put the game out of reach in the
77th minute. After the Wolver-
ines earned a corner kick, Zador-
sky arched a cross to Jaffe. The
5-foot-6 midfielder elevated over
a Boilermakers' defender to fire a
screaming header just under the
crossbar.
A week ago, Jaffe had never
scored for the Wolverines. But
aftertallyingthe overtime winner
in Wednesday's victory against
Michigan State, Jaffe has quickly
become a key offensive presence.
Coming in as a late-game substi-
tute in both games, she has made
the most of her playing time, scor-
ing in consecutive games.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan has
taken notice, and plans on using
Jaffe more in the future.
"She's like our secret weapon,"
he said. "Probably not-so-secret
any more."
In the second half, the Wolver-
ines played with a strong wind at
their backs, which helped them
control possession and wear
down the Boilermakers. But
despite commanding the match,
Michigan struggled to capitalize
on their scoring opportunities.
Ryan wasn't too concerned with
those difficulties, though, choos-
ing instead to focus on the chanc-
es that the offense created.
"I was very pleased that our
kids were stepping up to the plate
and taking that many shots," he
said. "If you start thinking about
missing, it'll mess you up."
The Wolverines' win kept a
10-game unbeaten streak and
undefeated record at home intact.

By THEO DUBIN
Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan volleyball team
easily dispatched Northwestern
in a 3-0 rout at Cliff Keen Arena
in front of dozens of former
players and coaches Saturday
night. The Wolverines turned
in consis-
tent offen- - NWESTERN 0
sive and MICHIGAN 3
defensive
performances, led by juniors
Lexi Erwin, Ally Davis and
Jen Cross, freshman Tiffany
Morales and sophomore Lexi
Dannemiller.
Morales anchored the
defense with several impres-
sive digs, which were smooth-
ly turned into offense by
Dannemiller, who racked up
37 assists. Davis, Erwin and
Cross finished points with ease
all night, compiling 35 and a
half of Michigan's 54 points.
In particular, Erwin provided
key momentum shifting kills
and digs during crucial points
throughout the match.
"Lexi Erwin and Jen Cross
played great," said Michi-
gan coach Mark Rosen. "Lexi
Dannemiller ran the offense
really well. Ally Davis was
great, I thought across the
board everyone. played really
well."
The Wolverines, who have
struggled with consistency all
season, turned in one of their
best all-around performances.
"We played really clean," said
fifth-year senior Claire McEi-
heny "We've been struggling
with consistency. Something
was bound to come together.

Freshman outside hitter Ally Davis, pictured here, and the Wolverines cruised past Northwestern at Cliff Keen Arena.

We've had some things going
one night and other things not
going. But I feel like the last
few games everything has come
together, and we've started
playing like Michigan volley-
ball. It's a nice feeling."
The majority of the match
saw even play from both squads,
with Michigan proving them-
selves to be the better team by
producing in crunch time. All
three sets were close entering
the finalpoints, but the Wolver-
ines saved their best for last and
convincingly pulled away each
time.
In particular, Erwin and
Cross closed each set with
strings of kills that left North-

western on its heels and unable
to run its offense.
"We haven't been very good
at finishing games in the past,"
McElheny said. "But in practice
we've been working on closing
and not feeling the extra pres-
sure, which really helps, espe-
cially with a young tean."
Rosen added: "We're playing
really free right now. They're
not wrapped up in trying to
play perfect, they are just being
aggressive and going after it."
The Wolverines' stellar per-
formance impressed the alumni
who returned for a homecom-
ing ceremony after the second
set.
"The girls are really good,"

said Darlene Recker, who
played from 1993-97. "I feel like
every year the team gets better,
which is fantastic. It's nice to
finally sit and watch the game
without beingnervous about it."
The Wolverines kept the
nerve-wracking moments to a
minimum with their dominant
showing.
They will need to maintain a
high level of-play as they enter
what could be the most difficult
two-game stretch of their sea-
son. Michigan will host No. 25
Michigan State on Wednesday
before welcoming perennial
powerhouse and current No. 1
Penn State to Cliff Keen Arena
on Saturday.

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