Coming off a home loss to No. 4 Penn State last weekend, things were not looking up for the Michigan field hockey team. Rather, things were looking east.
The ninth-ranked Wolverines (2-2 Big Ten, 7-4 overall) traveled to the East Coast this weekend for a pair of games against two top-10 teams: No. 8 Maryland (3-1 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) and No. 2 North Carolina (3-1 ACC, 9-2 overall). The team was hoping to add more quality wins to its resume, but instead found itself disappointed and overwhelmed.
Michigan began its weekend Friday in College Park with a Big Ten battle against the Terrapins. The Wolverines got on the scoreboard first, when redshirt junior Carly Bennett knocked a loose ball into the back of the net. Michigan continued to outshoot Maryland the rest of the half, but was unable to score again, and went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The Terrapins came out of halftime strong, scoring eight minutes into the half after a penalty gave them a corner attempt. Ten minutes later, though, freshman Meg Dowthwaite notched a goal, giving the Wolverines a 2-1 lead.
The lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Maryland’s Welma Luus knocked the ball in from just in front of the cage. The Terrapins continued to sustain pressure for the rest of the half, and outshot Michigan 12-7 in the second half. But neither team scored again in the half, and the eighth- and ninth-ranked teams in the country went to overtime.
Overtime began just as regulation ended, with Maryland dominating play. Junior goalkeeper Sam Swenson made three early saves in the period, but her heroics eventually came to an end. Three and a half minutes into the period, the Terrapins knocked the ball past Swenson, and the Wolverines’ hope for another top-10 win faded away.
Despite the disappointing result of its match in College Park, the Michigan field hockey team realized it had another game to play, senior midfielder Eliza Stein said. The Wolverines headed two states south to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face off against North Carolina. The two teams previously met in August, when Michigan defeated the then-first-ranked Tar Heels, 1-0.
Early on, the Wolverines showed signs of repeating their performance against North Carolina, with Stein scoring unassisted nine minutes into the game.
Eight minutes later, though, the Tar Heels improved upon their earlier performance with a tying goal by Eva van’t Hoog. The remainder of the half was pretty even, with Michigan outshooting the home team, 7-5.
“I think we got off to as good of a start against UNC as in the first game,” Stein said.
The Wolverines were in a good position going into the second half to score another quality win over the Tar Heels. But, it wasn’t to be.
Four minutes into the half, North Carolina struck again, giving the Tar Heels their first lead over Michigan this season. Emma Bozek scored off a penalty corner, and it didn’t stop there. Over the next 30 minutes North Carolina scored three more times, including twice more off penalty corners. A potential marquee Wolverine victory quickly turned into a blowout, and the Tar Heels avenged their season-opening loss with a 5-1 demolition.
Michigan now has a reprieve from top-10 opponents. Its next game is at home against Rutgers, and even despite the results from this weekend, the team is still confident in the rest of the season.
“I think we can still compete for a national championship,” Stein said. “This doesn’t change that.”