Lang makes most of move into starting role for Wolverines

Columbus North grad and Michigan sophomore Jenna Lang, right, dribbles past a defender against Boston College Aug. 31 at Michigan Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography

Jenna Lang made the leap from off the bench and into the starting 11 this year.

The Michigan sophomore and 2021 Columbus North grad had ups and downs during the season that ended with an at-large berth to the NCAA women’s soccer tournament. Even though the results weren’t what Lang hoped for, she looks forward to even a bigger and more successful season next year.

It was a tough schedule for Michigan throughout the year with a non-conference slate featuring teams like Notre Dame, Virginia and USC. The Wolverines had a seven-game winning streak during the season, but lost five of their last six games in the Big Ten Conference that kept them from securing a place in the conference tournament.

Finishing the regular season at 7-6-4, it was a waiting game for Lang and her Wolverine teammates for the possible chance of an at-large bid. Lang mentioned the team continued training and practicing just incase they were called during the NCAA Selection Show. The selection committee rewarded them with an at-large bid.

“We started off really, really well. We had a difficult non-conference (schedule). We performed well in those games, especially being a young team,” Lang said. “As the season progressed and Big Ten play started, we did well in the beginning half. We didn’t do the best the second half of conference, so it put us in an interesting position in the NCAA (tournament) and selection show.”

Michigan fell to Princeton 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

Columbus North grad and Michigan sophomore Jenna Lang boots a shot attempt in a match against Penn State Sept. 28 at Michigan Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography

Lang also battled a couple of injuries during the year. She suffered a concussion during practice in mid-September that forced her to miss two games. She made her presence felt in her first game back against then-No. 4 Penn State by scoring the team’s goal in a 1-1 draw.

Lang rolled her ankle during the game against Michigan State on Oct. 7 that forced her to miss the rest of that game and the next game against Rutgers until returning to play Oct. 15 against Indiana.

Columbus North grad and Michigan sophomore Jenna Lang watches the action in a preseason exhibition match against Xavier Aug. 12 at Michigan Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography

After coming off the bench last year for Michigan, she found herself in the starting lineup for 11 of the 15 contests she played in for the Wolverines. She played mostly in the attack center midfielder position this season. Despite the injuries, she finished tied for third on the team in goals (three) and points (seven).

“I would say this year was a big confidence year for me. I knew that I would have to step up into a bigger role with us having a younger roster and a lot of our senior players graduating last year,” Lang said. “I think going through those highs and lows fairly consistent throughout the year, I had a much better performance than last year, minutes and stats-wise. Overall, I handled it pretty well, but also my team as a whole working together, building those team culture and team dynamics was super important this year.”

Columbus North grad and Michigan sophomore Jenna Lang looks to make a pass in a match against Princeton Nov. 10 at Roberts Stadium in Princeton, New Jersey.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography

The conference will be much different next year for Lang and the Wolverines, with the Big Ten expanding from 14 to 18 teams by adding UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. In all likelihood, Michigan will play at least one or two games on the West Coast next year.

Lang said the travel issue wouldn’t be that much of a problem since they typically travel a day or two earlier by plane for longer road games. The biggest adjustment would be the amount of travel time across three time zones.

“It will be a little bit different with time change and overall body fatigue with just the amount of travel,” Lang said. “I also think it will definitely be different, but it will be a cool experience getting to play with different styles because teams coming from the Pac-12, it is a completely different style of soccer. I think that playing some of those teams will only help us build as a conference, as well.”

Jenna Lang

While Lang was disappointed with how the season ended, she hopes to make strides and help push the team to greater heights next year.

“This year, we were pretty young. Next year, we’ll still be on that building route, but I think we’ll be a little better off based off of experience-wise,” Lang said. “Overall, I think that it’s continuing to build and we’re kind of working on that team culture and those team dynamics because honestly, that’s what we worked a lot on this year, and it helps a lot on the field.”