BY BOB HUNT
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 2, 2002
KENT, Ohio - Years from now, people won't remember that on Nov. 18, 2001 the Michigan field hockey team played the consensus No. 1 team in the country. They won't remember that its opponent had six senior starters. They won't remember that its opponent had beaten the Wolverines just two years earlier in the same game.
But they will remember that these women were the leaders and the best.
Led by the incredible play of graduated goaltender Maureen Tasch and a great all-around defensive effort, the Michigan field hockey team knocked off top-ranked Maryland 2-0 to capture the NCAA Division I National Championship and Michigan's first national title in a women's sport.
"I'm happy to bring another one home for the Wolverines," Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. "Men's programs, women's programs, revenue, non-revenue, it doesn't matter. We're just really proud to be a part of the University."
This completes a resurgence to a program that had never made the NCAA Tournament until 1999, when the Terrapins defeated the Wolverines in the title game.
"It's pretty darn exciting," Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said last night. "Being the first of anything is pretty historic."
Tasch pulled out the first shutout in a championship game since 1996. She stopped 13 shots against the nation's No. 1 scoring offense, giving the first field hockey title to a school west of Virginia since Iowa won in 1986.
"Obviously nothing could be better than this and it still hasn't quite all processed in my mind," Tasch said. "I haven't cried like everyone else yet."
Maryland controlled the play early, but with two minutes remaining in the first half, Kristi Gannon sent a crossing pass from the far right side through the Maryland defense and Maryland keeper Ashley Hohnstine and somehow found 2001 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Adrienne Hortillosa in front of a wide-open net to put the ball home, giving Michigan the lead.
"The first five minutes, they really kind of came at us, and I think then we kind of got our jitters out and sold ourselves and got back in it," Michigan midfielder Jessica Rose said.
Just after intermission, Michigan stunned the crowd of 984 again as Gannon found Rose at the top of the circle off a penalty corner. Rose blasted it into the net to give the underdog Wolverines a two-goal advantage.
Maryland dominated play for the rest of the game, but the Michigan defense, led by Tasch, Stephanie Johnson, and Catherine Foreman, staved off the Terrapins.
"The last 20 minutes they really had us on our heels, but we held on," Rose said.
Maryland fired eleven shots in the second half, but Tasch made one incredible save after another. Even after Michigan forward April Fronzoni was called off the field with about 12 minutes remaining for a yellow card for tackling a player from behind, the constant adversity only made Michigan stronger.
"I felt like with each little new challenge they were put with, I just knew that we would get even stronger," Tasch said.
While they were not as highly ranked as the Terrapins, the ups and downs that Michigan experienced throughout the season gave them confidence going in. The Wolverines were at one point ranked No. 2 in the country but toward the end of the season dropped two conference games and lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, Maryland had rolled through its regional and came into the game having won nine in a row.
"I felt like the number one team today maybe didn't have the ups and downs and the adversity to relish what we had been in," Johnson said. "So we knew what sort of great opportunity we had been presented with today."
In the semifinals, the Wolverines used a second-half surge with goals by Powers, Fronzoni, and a penalty stroke by Stephanie Johnson to put away Ivy Champ Princeton 4-2.
"We're doing so well in so many women's sports," Martin said. "We've come so close in gymnastics and softball. Crew was a boat-length away last year. This will be the start of a wonderful trend."