Jennifer Klein knows a little something about winning not only soccer games but championships. She also knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of women’s college soccer and hopes to someday take the Wolverines to the mountain top. The best news of all is that the new Michigan women’s soccer coach isn’t exactly starting her climb in the valley but on the precipice with a roster loaded with talent, facilities second to none and the confidence and promise that goes with being a Wolverine.
Klein comes to Ann Arbor after spending the last four seasons at the University of Southern California, including the last three as USC’s associate head coach. She was on the staff during the Trojans’ run to an NCAA title in 2016.
Klein was named the head coach at Michigan in March after the university decided to part ways with Greg Ryan, who in 10 seasons at the helm of the program, went 103-64-36 (.596). Michigan finished the 2017 season with a 6-6-6 overall record and 3-5-3 mark in Big Ten Conference play.
Last year’s team was young and plagued by injuries and Klein is pleased to see a healthy team getting ready for the upcoming season.
“Everyone is looking good,” Klein said. “We had a good spring and everyone rested up well and those players are looking good. It’s certainly something we are dealing with in how we make sure our players stay healthy and stay on the field for longer periods of time.”
The Wolverines announced the signing of the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation (according to TopDrawerSoccer) in February. The class of eight student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent to join the Maize and Blue for the 2018 season included:
Defender/forward Skylar Anderson (Boulder, Colo./Fairview)
Midfielder Emily Ashby (Ada, Mich./Forest Hills Northern)
Forward/midfielder Brianna “Sammi” Atterbury (Gilbert, Ariz./Hamilton)
Midfielder Meredith Haakenson (Maple Grove, Minn./Maple Grove)
Defender Janiece Joyner (Medina, Ohio/Medina)
Forward Kierra Krawec (Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes)
Midfielder Raleigh Loughman (Sunnyvale, Calif./Global Odyssey Academy)
Defender Sydney Shepherd (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista)
“There were already some verbal commitments and the former staff had a really good eye for talent,” Klein said. “Just look at the players still in the program. There are some very good players here. And the players who were verbally committed were good players too and will fit nicely into what we are looking to build here. I see a few freshman who I think will be able to step in and contribute and be impactful which is great.”
Klein says Michigan has always been a program that was very well organized.
“We want to add a more collective attacking identity and try to get more players forward and be a team that dictates play,” she said. “There are some great tools to work with and we are excited about adding our staff’s qualities to the mix.”
Both Defensive MVP Jada Dayne and Offensive MVP Reilly Martin returns this season. A junior, Martin was an All-Big Ten third-team selection and led the team with six goals and five assists and finished the season tied for sixth on Michigan’s all-time career assists list with 20. At center back, Dayne, a sophomore, anchored Michigan’s back line that posted five shutouts and allowed just one goal per game.
Taylor Timko also returns this season. The redshirt senior, who suffered a knee injury that forced her to miss the 2016 season, earned All-Big Ten second-team honors in 2017.
U-M’s Rookie of the Year, midfielder Sarah Stratigakis, also is back. She started all 18 matches in her rookie campaign and finished the season with three goals and five assists and was an All-Big Ten second-team and Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection.
The Wolverines have sophomore Hillary Beall to handle the goalkeeping duties. She was recently named to the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team and was one of 21 players to represent the United States at the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“Based on who we have returning I would say defense will be a big strength of the team,” Klein says. “We have some talented midfielders as well. I think there also is a good mix of strong seniors and talented newcomers coming in. It’s just a matter of seeing how it all fits together.
“We got five weeks with them in the spring and they all responded well. But getting into the fall and seeing them playing in games that are important is the best way to evaluate and see what we have.”
Five of U-M’s first seven games will be at home, starting with the opener against perennial America East power Boston University on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 7:30 p.m. Big Ten Conference play will begin with a Sept. 13 road game at Indiana (6 p.m. on Big Ten Network) before a Sept. 16 road tilt at Purdue (1 p.m.).
Michigan’s Big Ten home opener comes the following week when the Wolverines host Wisconsin in a Sept. 20 game at 6 p.m.
The Maize and Blue will host consecutive home Big Ten games on three separate occasions this season, starting with Wisconsin and Minnesota (Sept. 23), followed by Ohio State (Oct. 5) and Penn State (Oct. 7), and Maryland (Oct. 18) and Michigan State (21).
“It’s easier to walk into a program knowing you are getting quality players coming with you and already here,” Klein says. “It’s just a matter of the new staff implementing the style that best fits these talented players.”
Katie Hultin, Tiffany Hansen and Bilal Hussein are assistant coaches on Klein’s staff.