Freshman forward Meg Dowthwaite received the pass from senior forward Courtney Enge and thought, “I’ve got to score this. If I miss this, it’s tragic.” She was alone in front of the Iowa goal with only the goalkeeper to beat and just under three minutes left in overtime.
The Iowa goalie advanced out toward Dowthwaite, who made a move left.
“I didn’t even see it go in,” Dowthwaite said. “I just saw everyone run toward me, and I was like, ‘I guess it went in!’ ”
The No. 12 Michigan field hockey team (4-3 Big Ten, 9-6 overall) wouldn’t have won if not for the efforts of Enge. The senior took the ball 75 yards up the left side, running with a gait like she was nearing exhaustion, before getting double-teamed and finding the wide-open Dowthwaite.
“Seven-on-sevens are very tiring,” Enge said. “After 70 minutes of play, it’s crazy how we have to go back in there, like zombies, down players. I’m so glad that I was able to contribute to the winning goal.”
In the end, it was a great win and likely the most exciting game of the season. But the spectacular finish wouldn’t have been possible if not for Michigan’s flat start in the first half and a controversial call in the second.
Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz, a two-time All-American at Iowa in her playing days, was clearly unhappy with her squad’s effort level in the first half. After Iowa forward Natalie Cafone, considered one of the top players in the country, scored toward the end of the first half, Pankratz started yelling, “Get strong around the ball! Be more competitive! It’s so frustrating!”
Moments later, fans tried to inspire the Wolverines with some chants to get the team fired up. Pankratz continued: “The God-damn fans are yelling at you! It’s pathetic!”
But as a coach who has built the program into one of the best in the country and is now in her 17th season, Pankratz knew exactly what buttons to push at halftime.
“We had a great team talk at halftime,” Dowthwaite said. “Marcia got us all rallied up. We were not going to lose. Everyone played their heart out.”
The Wolverines came out in the second half looking like a different team. Redshirt junior forward Carly Bennett scored under a minute into the period to tie things up, ending the team’s scoring drought at over three halves of play.
Michigan then appeared to take a one-goal lead on a shot from sophomore forward Emma Way off a penalty corner. The ball sounded like it hit the right sideboard for a goal, but after a Wolverine challenge, the officials upheld the no-goal call, leaving the crowd and players confused.
The last ingredient in the Michigan victory was junior goalkeeper Sam Swenson’s stellar play. She stopped a penalty shot with 11 minutes left in the second half to force overtime.
The Wolverines had lost just two days earlier when unranked Indiana (3-2 Big Ten, 8-7 overall) converted on a penalty stroke to notch a 1-0 upset victory.
It was a game in which the Wolverines outplayed their competition but still lost due to an inability to convert on their many scoring opportunities. Michigan outshot Indiana, 19-5, and out-cornered the Hoosiers, 12-2.
But this time, behind Dowthwaite, the Wolverines were on the right side of the decisive goal. With just two games left in the regular season, a strong showing for the Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament will ensure the team receives a NCAA Tournament bid.