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Michigan ready to take on No. 9 ranked Northwestern

By Alex Taylor, For the Daily
Published October 4, 2012

Looking to remain undefeated at home, the No. 15 Michigan field hockey team will take on No. 10 Northwestern on Friday at Ocker Field in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines hope to carry the momentum from last weekend’s 7-1 drubbing of Pacific. In that game, Michigan took 31 shots on goal and the offensive explosion has the confidence of the young team riding high as it heads into Big Ten play.

“I definitely think it’s important for everyone to have their confidence scoring and knowing that we can work together and put the ball into the net,” said junior forward Michelle Roberts.

Against Pacific, the Wolverines were able to practice new tactics and were also given more playing time.

“We’ll try to build on that for next weekend,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “Getting a lot of players in the game, especially getting some experience at different positions.”

In addition to building on experience, Michigan hopes to continue its barrage of shots on goal and its aggressive mentality.

“I think if we go out with that attitude and mentality and keep fighting, fighting, fighting, because they are going to be determined against us so we have to fight hard and hopefully get another 31 shots on goal,” said freshman midfielder Aisling Naughton.

But it won’t be an easy task. Northwestern stands as one of the nation’s best teams and will pose a daunting challenge for the Wolverines. The Wildcats are coming off an overtime victory over No. 6 Penn State last weekend. The Wolverines lost to the Nittany Lions in their Big Ten opener, 4-3.

Michigan’s impact player, junior forward Rachael Mack, will be called upon to lead the scoring charge for the Wolverines. Mack has scored in seven-straight games with 11 goals over that stretch. With 44 career goals, Mack ranked fifth in all-time scoring for Michigan. Mack, a team captain as well as a two-time All American, will be asked to lead this young Michigan team once again against a high-caliber opponent.

Due to the recent low-scoring games against Northwestern, redshirt junior goalie Haley Jones will likely have a big impact on the game. Jones, who has started all 11 games this season, is holding opponents to 1.58 goals per game. As a team captain, Jones has upped her game against top opponents this year with a career-high 14 saves in the loss against Penn State.

Michigan has had the upper hand against Northwestern in recent years. Dating back to 1997, the Wolverines have won 20 straight matches against the Wildcats. Last year’s game was a double overtime thriller in Evanston, which Michigan won 3-2.

In addition to trying to stay unbeaten at home, the Wolverines will also try to gain their first conference win on Saturday.

“It’ll be tough,” said Naughton. “But we’re looking forward to it.”