Michigan comes up big in the biggest game of the season
Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. Against No. 2 Maryland (13-2 overall, 5-1 Big Ten), the Michigan women’s field hockey team did just that.
In a top-10 matchup, No. 9 Michigan (11-3, 4-1) played a near perfect game as the Wolverines contained the juggernaut Terrapins, in a 1-0 win, giving coach Marcia Pankratz her 300th career win.
“Yeah, it’s certainly fun to have it (300th career win) be against such a great team like Maryland, but it’s really about the players,” Pankratz said. “I mean, it was one of the games I’m just standing on the sidelines. So it’s just fun to reflect back about every one of those wins and all the amazing players have come to the program. So that makes it really special.”
For senior midfielder Guadalupe Lacort, it was scoring the winning goal. Lacort scored with 1:04 left in the second quarter and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The first quarter ended without a shot for either team, before things opened up in the second quarter. The Wolverines missed multiple opportunities early, including a missed penalty shot and missed corner that gave Maryland some momentum. But, Michigan held up after four shots by the Terrapins and was able to get its own attacks rolling. The Wolverines pushed the ball to their side of the field and fired some shots off, until Lacort was able to maneuver the ball in.
“I was just looking for space to go,” Lacort said. “I saw the goalie go out and I was like I am just gonna throw it.”
Lacort danced along the baseline and spun around multiple Maryland defenders and then knocked the ball in the goal. The load slam of the ball sent the Wolverines to berate their teammate. Lacort was humble about her account of the moment, but even Pankratz acknowledged the majesticity of the goal.
“Beautiful,” Pankratz said. “She’s just magical. She is really the best skilled player we’ve ever had. Amazing.”
The goal lit a spark in the Wolverines. Michigan came out of half with fresh legs and a buoyed confidence. Its midfield was able to choke up any Maryland attack or push. Sophomore goalkeeper Anna Spieker only made it worse for the Terrapins. She stopped all 10 of Maryland’s shots, twice as many as Michigan got off.
“She made really good decisions, just really solid poise decisions back there,” Pankratz said. “And obviously she shut them out and that's not an easy thing to shut out. So it's a great game for her.”
Spieker was the anchor of what was a staunch team defense.
“We were just one unit,” Spieker said. “You could see everyone was talking to each other, communicating a lot. We just worked as a team together.”
The intensity picked up in the final five minutes of the game. Maryland desperately tried to break through this impenetrable Michigan defense. The Terrapins even pulled their goalkeeper with 4:04 left, but even an extra player didn’t solve their offensive struggles. The final minutes showcased Michigan’s dominance throughout the entire game, as they kept the ball in the middle of the field.
“It was one of the goals we’ve had all season to play an entire 60 minutes really strong,” Pankratz said. “We knew we had to against Maryland and they sure did.”
With 17 seconds to go, Lacort — a familiar hero — came in and stole the ball away from a Maryland player to conclusively end its hopes. The buzzer sounded as the Wolverines celebrated a thrilling game under the bright lights, capping off a seventh shutout in their last nine games.