Thirty-six seconds into Sunday's matchup, the No. 8 Michigan women’s field hockey team was given a quick wake-up call when No. 4 Penn State got on the board. Despite a second-half rally by the defense, the Wolverines were unable to recover from the early goal, losing 3-1.
The Nittany Lions zoomed through the field, and in the first five minutes scored two goals, sending the defense and the rest of the team scrambling to catch up.
“We didn’t play the whole 70 minutes,” Michigan head coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We were 10 minutes late. By then we really scrambled to come back. To do that against a great team like Penn State, I was proud of how we turned it around and really worked hard the second half.”
Unfortunately for Michigan's defense, it was not well-adjusted to the Nittany Lions’ speed.
“Adjusting to their speed was something that we worked on towards the second half,” said Michigan sophomore defender Maggie Bettez. “We are going to take that and move forward and keep building as a defense since we’re so young.”
Throughout the second half of the match, the Wolverines’ defense put up a valiant effort. They proved to be solid on setting up plays, but the early confusion cost the Wolverines the game.
The defense came out of the halftime break seemingly a new unit. Michigan regrouped and played more aggressive, while the defense held strong through three consecutive corners.
The newfound energy brought better communication between the defense and the offense, as the majority of the second half was played on Penn State’s half of the field.
“Marcia always says ‘give them nothing’ and step up nice and early,” Bettez said. “I think we started to do that a little more. The Big Ten is always physical and that’s just how we play, always.”
Looking to improve for their game against Maryland next weekend, the Wolverines aim to simulate quickly paced situations from this week. And even after the 3-1 loss, Pankratz can still see gradual improvement in the defense this season.
“Our defense is young,” Pankratz said. “We’re still learning and getting better every game. So we’ll just make some adjustments for the next game. Everything is a process. We’re learning every day and getting better every day. I’m proud of them and looking forward to the next game.”