After dropping to No. 2 in the latest NFHCA Coaches poll early last week, the Michigan field hockey team (9-0, 2-0 Big Ten) entered the weekend looking to regain the Division I crown. The Wolverines got a chance to make that case against their top rival, No. 18 Ohio State (6-4, 1-1), in Columbus on Sunday.
While the Buckeyes made an aggressive push in the fourth quarter, ultimately Michigan held onto its 1-0 lead to secure the victory.
Despite the low score, the Wolverines’ offense was overwhelmingly in control of gaining and keeping possession, finishing with 16 shots, 11 of which were on goal. However, Ohio State goaltender Aaliyah Hernandez kept the surges at bay with a solid performance, netting 10 saves.
The Wolverines were finally able to break through Hernandez in the 36th minute, netting the lone goal of the game. Following a steal by junior midfielder Nina Apoola, freshman midfielder Abby Tamer found senior midfielder Sofia Southam to put the ball in the net. The goal was Southam’s 14th of the season, coming in only seven games.
“(Southam) always has a strong presence in the circle,” Tamer said. “It’s easy to find a pass to her.”
Defensively, the offensive onslaught by the Wolverines proved to be an effective strategy of it’s own, as Ohio State found themselves constantly on their heels. Through three quarters, the Buckeyes had no shots and no corners. Only in the waning moments, and in large part due to going to an empty net, did the Buckeyes add three shots—none of which were on goal—and a corner to the box score. Michigan senior goaltender Anna Spieker finished the game with her fourth shutout of the season.
“We’re really good at getting the early turnover before they move too close to the circle,” Tamer said. “But even if we don’t, we have a lockdown defense that doesn’t give up.”
Throughout the game, both teams played an increasingly chippy style of play. Frustration mounted on both sides of the ball over the allowance of physical play by the officials, as ultimately just one card was given to either team, a green card given to Michigan senior mid-back Emma Tamer in the 56th minute.
“It’s field hockey, it’s a frustrating game sometimes,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “But the girls don’t get overwhelmed by it.
“When you play the Buckeyes, you expect it to be tough and scrappy. The girls played poised, but they also played with a lot of heart, and it got us the win.”
Daily sports contributer David Woelkers can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @dawjr98.