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A bittersweet opener for WSU soccer in 2-1 loss to Michigan

The Cougs should have walked away with — at least — a point.

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 24: Washington State women’s soccer celebrates senior night against UCLA, resulting in a 1-1 draw
Margie Detrizio was a force against Michigan, scoring a goal and taking seven shots.
Jack Ellis/CougCenter

There are a couple of different ways that a Washington State soccer fan could view last night’s 2-1 road loss to the Michigan Wolverines.

The Cougars fell behind early, giving up a pair of goals in the first 20 minutes to trail 2-0 at the break. But they came back to pile on the pressure in the second half, scoring a goal in the 56th minute and going on to out-shoot the Wolverines 13-0 in the period with seven of those on target.

And those saves weren’t of the pitch-and-catch variety, either. It’s kind of mind boggling that the Cougs never found the equalizer. Start by enjoying Margie Detrizio’s goal, end by marvelling at how none of the rest of the shots went in:

If one was inclined to be pessimistic, they could lament the missed opportunity: To so thoroughly outplay a quality opponent on the road — the Wolverines are ranked No. 9 or No. 17 (depending on which poll you’re looking at) and hosted a regional last year — and lose because of a failure to convert so many chances is definitely frustrating.

“Michigan is a nice team, but quite honestly, it ended up like 17 to five in shots. We didn’t finish in the second half. We made a couple of adjustments; we didn’t finish,” coach Todd Shulenberger said after the game. He continued: “It’s disappointing. It’s not easy winning on the road, but I feel one, for sure, at least a draw slipped away here tonight — easily, for sure.”

But if one was inclined to optimistic, as I am, there’s far more to like than not.

Soccer is a funny game, in which a weird bounce or a singular gaffe can be the difference between a win or a draw or a loss. When I’m thinking about my soccer teams and how encouraged or discouraged I should be by a particular result, I try to focus on the big picture of chance creation. Are they creating more dangerous chances than their opponents? Are they limiting dangerous chances? Because, eventually, those things tend to even up on you.

And that’s where I feel pretty great about the game, if not the result. Seeing the Cougs dominate the dangerous chances in the second half against an excellent opponent on the road is hopefully a great indicator of what this team will be capable of. The Cougars were, unquestionably, the better side overall in this early measuring stick game.

“I wouldn’t say they handled us — we couldn’t finish our chances, so that’s on us for giving up two counter goals early,” Shulenberger said. “Again, we changed it up, ran at them, and it was one way traffic in the second half, but we lost the game. That’s what happens.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from junior forward Margie Detrizio. She deputized nicely for Elyse Bennett last season, scoring four goals and contributing three assists, but it’s a little different being the one counted on to lead the line in every game.

So far, so good: Detrizio was an absolute handful for the Wolverines’ back line, launching a whopping seven shots, including that incredible goal she created out of nearly nothing. Detrizio only missed a brace because of a great save by the keeper on a point-blank chance after Detrizio had outmuscled her defender to generate the chance.

It’s only one game, but right now, she sure looks ready to step confidently into the legacy left behind by Morgan Weaver and Bennett. Having a dependable 9 means so much..

Undoubtedly, it stinks to lose. But I’m feeling great about the Cougs as the head into their home opener next week on Thursday against Portland, and there will be plenty of chances for WSU to pick up quality wins, playing in the always-tough Pac-12.