With 16 minutes left in the second half of its game at Ohio State, the No. 10 Michigan women’s lacrosse team’s nation-leading win streak appeared to be in danger.
Senior attacker Adriana Pendino was given a yellow card, which provided the Buckeyes (6-4 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) with a one-player advantage for two minutes. Halfway through the advantage granted by the penalty, Buckeye attacker Sophie Baez found twine past senior goaltender Mira Shane and cut the Wolverines’ lead to only one goal.
The one-goal lead seemed unlikely to hold after a back-and-forth first half, but thanks to five Michigan goals in the remainder of the game, the Wolverines held on to win, 15-10.
The Buckeyes led for just over six minutes in the game, but Michigan (11-0, 2-0) couldn’t quite pull away in the first half.
The two teams traded goals over the opening 15 minutes until Ohio State went on a three-goal run to take its first — and only — lead of the game. But the Wolverines answered back with a three-goal run of their own to retake the lead.
“I think it took us a little bit to get used to Ohio State and how they were playing defense,” said Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen. “It was just, I think, getting into our groove. Ohio State came out really hard. Rivalry game, that’s expected, but once our girls settled in, I thought we did really well toward the end of the first half.”
This time, when the Buckeyes answered, they were unable to do more than even the score.
Michigan took a narrow one-goal lead into halftime after sophomore midfielder Maggie Kane found the back of the net with mere seconds left in the half.
After Ohio State tied the game at eight goals apiece less than a minute into the second half, the Wolverines locked down on defense and allowed just two goals in the final 19 minutes of the game.
“I thought at the end — the last three, four minutes of the first half, the defense slipped a little bit,” Nielsen said. “It was just sort of reiterating our game plan and what it was going in. Just to remind them to play together. I thought Mira Shane in cage was coming up with some more saves which we needed her to do in the second half. Collectively, they just raised their game, which is what we needed.”
While the defense and Shane held the Buckeyes’ offense at bay, Michigan’s offense struggled to pull away early in the second stanza.
But when Pendino scored her third goal of the game with 15:43 left to play, the Wolverines got the spark they needed to put the game away. Pendino added two more tallies of her own, along with junior midfielder Nadine Stewart and sophomore attacker Caitlin Muir, who each found twine.
Pendino’s five goals were good for her second-most of the season, and she scored on all five shots she attempted.
“What’s great about our offense is it’s a true seven-person offense,” Nielsen said. “I think tonight, (Pendino) just happened to be on — she was obviously working really hard herself and dodging and shooting herself.
“She definitely put her head down and went to work this week and practice and took the shooting to heart. She knew that she needed to improve, and so to see her go five-for-five tonight was massive.”
The win over the Buckeyes leaves Michigan in uncharted territory in its sixth year of the program. The Wolverines have never won more than seven games in a season.
Now they’re 11-0.
Since Michigan began playing in the Big Ten in 2014, it has won just five conference games. Two of those wins have come this season, and the Wolverines aren’t content stopping there.
“One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to make the Big Ten Tournament,” Nielsen said. “(That’s) something this program has never done before. At the beginning of the year, I thought we were gonna (have) a good chance to do it and obviously, we’re playing really confidently, really aggressively. That’s what you have to in the conference.”