It has often been said that defense wins games.
The No. 16 Michigan field hockey team would agree with that statement, as the Wolverines stifled both Vermont and Davidson’s offenses Friday and Sunday, respectively.
Michigan’s defense was especially impenetrable against the Catamounts. After giving up a goal in the fifth minute of the first half, the Wolverines did not allow a single shot on goal before halftime.
Michigan continued to dominate in the second half, holding Vermont to two shots, both within the final six minutes of play. The Wolverines finished the contest with both a 26-3 shot advantage and a 8-2 corner edge in their 3-1 victory.
“We’ve got some great experience in the backfield,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “They’re really good players. We’re confident in that defense, and it showed.”
Michigan’s defensive play against Davidson, while not quite as suffocating as it was versus Vermont, was impressive in its own right. The Wolverines’ defense turned away two consecutive corner shots with 19 minutes left in the second half to preserve Michigan’s 1-0 lead.
But the highlight in the Wolverines’ contest with the Wildcats was in goal. Sophomore netminder Sam Swenson kept Davidson scoreless, making seven saves before being replaced by fellow sophomore Chris Lueb with 5:27 to go in the game to give Lueb some playing time.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my defenders,” Swenson said. “I think everyone played well.”
Pankratz was not as modest about Swenson’s play.
“Sam played great and that was very critical,” Pankratz said. “When the game was 0-0 and 1-0, she made some really great saves that kept us ahead. I think that continued to keep the momentum on our side. She gets the game star.”
The shutout was only broken when the Davidson’s midfielder Melissa Funsten scored on a corner shot as time expired.
“It was a very good corner shot,” Swenson said. “It was just unlucky for us.”
With Swenson anchoring the defense in net, teams will be hard pressed to outscore the Wolverines. And if that is the case, defense really may win championships.