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Michigan's Jill Smith.

Wolverine Walk-Off! Smith Beats Buzzer, Sends Michigan to Quarterfinals

May 12, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
Matt Cashore

Michigan was calm and collected — and motivated — as the clock wound down in their second-round game against Notre Dame on Sunday in South Bend. Tied at 14, the game looked bound for overtime.

The Wolverines had other plans. With her eyes toward the center of the defense, Josie Gooch lobbed a pass to teammate Jill Smith. She worked her way past two defenders, dropping her stick sidearm to send a right-handed rocket past Notre Dame goalie Lilly Callahan.

The score: 15-14 Michigan. The scene: pandemonium. Smith raised her arms and sprinted down the field to meet goalkeeper Erin O’Grady, awaiting the officials to signal that the goal was good.

It was.

Michigan is bound for its first quarterfinal in program history. The win is another milestone in a remarkable season for the Wolverines, who boast the nation’s top defense and a balanced attack beyond just Smith.

Sunday’s matchup was a tense, competitive thriller at Arlotta featuring eight ties. Notre Dame was one step ahead of Michigan for the first three quarters, but the Wolverines surged when it mattered.

The Irish took control early, as its dynamic attacking trio — Madison Ahern, Kasey Choma and Jackie Wolak — all scored to gain a 3-0 lead halfway through the first quarter. But Michigan remained patient, using strong defensive possessions to take the reins on offense and tie the score at 3 at the end of the first.

Notre Dame went up tempo and cut with precision, scoring four goals in the second quarter. Michigan closed the gap by halftime, trimming it to 8-7. The Wolverines were strong in transition, beating Notre Dame on fast break goals, while also taking longer, pass-heavy possessions to find the perfect opportunity.

Yet Michigan struggled to fully take control. The Wolverines went on extended runs and traded blows with the Irish but did not gain a lead until a Julia Schwabe free position goal three minutes into the fourth quarter.

Schwabe’s goal ignited the Wolverines’ attack, which tallied five goals in the final period. The unit was patient, sending the ball around the eight-meter and taking their time to set things up. Smith played a key role in powering Michigan in the fourth, tallying two goals, while Gooch chipped in a goal and an assist.

The Wolverines’ defense was even keeled throughout, as O’Grady made 10 saves, and her defense tallied nine caused turnovers and 12 ground balls. Notre Dame, which averages 17 goals per game, scored just 14 on Sunday.

Michigan will travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to meet Boston College in the NCAA quarterfinals on Thursday. It will be the first time ever Michigan and Boston College will square off.