ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After taking an early lead on a third-minute goal by Laura Gosse, the Central Michigan women’s soccer team lost an overtime heartbreaker to Michigan, 2-1, in Saturday evening’s NCAA Tournament First Round match after allowing a last-minute goal in regulation and a goal halfway through the first overtime period.
The Chippewas (15-7-1) scored in the third minute and held off a hard-pressing Wolverines (15-5-2) side that took 24 shots for 89 minutes and 20 seconds before allowing the equalizing goal with just 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Central blocked seven shots taken by Michigan, and senior goalkeeper Stefanie Turner made five saves as the Chippewas applied relentless defensive pressure to the Wolverines throughout the match.
With the loss, the Chippewas’ season, which included the most difficult non-conference schedule in program history and the Mid-American Conference’s first NCAA Tournament at-large bid, comes to an end.The Chippewas are now 1-3 all-time in NCAA postseason play.
“My heart goes out to our players who battled incredibly hard,” head coach Neil Stafford said. “We have nothing to hang our heads about. I think we just showed how tough the MAC is and what a quality program Central Michigan is."
“This team showed an enormous amount of character all season. These ladies have a never-say-die kind of attitude. They play like Chippewas. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Michigan’s leading scorer Nkem Ezurike netted the game-winner in the fifth minute of overtime after she corralled the ball in the box and found the lower left portion of the goal. Emily Jaffe assisted the goal.
Turner made a brilliant save in the first minute of overtime to preserve the tie, diving and snatching the ball out of mid-air on a shot by Jaffe.
With CMU leading with less than a minute remaining, the Wolverines’ Clare Stachel headed in a shot off the post and past Turner to tie the match, 1-1. Chloe Sosenko assisted the goal.
Gosse gave the Chippewas an early lead that stood for most of the match.
Freshman forward Danielle Rotheram set up the Gosse goal when she broke away on a counter-attack for the Chippewas off a Michigan corner in the second minute, advancing all the way into the box before her shot was blocked and cleared out of bounds on the far side.
On the ensuing throw-in, MAC Defensive Player of the Year senior defender Bailey Brandon placed the ball across the front of the net, where Gosse was waiting amongst a crowd to punch it in on one touch for a 1-0 lead in the third minute.
The goal was Gosse’s fifth of the season, and Brandon’s assist was her third of the season.
"We like physical games and it was for sure an intense game," Slaughter said. "Sometimes you come out battered and bruised but that’s fine with us and I couldn’t be more proud of how battered and bruised we will come out."
Central Michigan controlled possession for much of the early part of the first half, while Michigan started to assert itself in the latter portion of the half and into much of the second half. Despite controlling possession, the Chippewas were outshot, 11-4 in the first half, but matched the Wolverines shot-for-shot in the second half, 10-10.
The Chippewas faced several close calls from the Michigan offensive attack in the middle of the first half. Within a three-minute span between the 25th and 28th minutes, Michigan fired close shots off the near post and the crossbar, and barely missed a redirect on a cross to the far post.
Gosse nearly netted another in the 33rd minute when she fired a low shot that went wide of the far post by a foot.
In the 52nd minute junior midfielder Kaely Schlosser made a run toward goal, breaking away from her defender with a stepover move, and blasted a shot that was saved by Michigan goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer.
Senior midfielder Autumn Hawkins made an attempt on goal in the 61st minute, but her shot was also saved.
The closest call for the Chippewas prior to the late equalizer goal was when it appeared the Wolverines had tied the match in the 75th minute, but an offsides call nullified the goal, preserving the Chippewas’ 1-0 lead.
Brandon also attempted a shot on goal in the 81st minute that was saved.
Schlosser led the Chippewas with four shots, while Gosse took three.
The CMU seniors (Brandon, Slaughter, Turner, Hawkins, midfielder Ashley Mejilla, forward Laura Twidle, forward Samantha Brenz and forward Charlese McLemore) finish their outstanding career as the winningest class in program history with a career mark of 63-19-8.