Way’s hat trick sends Michigan to the Final Four
That was the word Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz used to describe junior forward Emma Way after her hat trick led the Wolverines to a 3-0 win over Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
From the beginning, Michigan seemed to have the Wildcats under its spell.
The Wolverines fought off Northwestern’s early possession lead and took the ball down the field. Way tipped in a diagonal pass from fifth-year senior forward Carly Bennett for her first goal.
“Attacking-wise we could take a couple more risks (after the goal),” said senior goalkeeper Sam Swenson. “So it was a nice little cushion.”
One of those risks was in Michigan’s passing. After having the majority of their passes blocked by Syracuse’s defense in the round of 16, the Wolverines found more success Sunday through their triangular passing formation. Senior back Katie Trombetta stood directly in front of Swenson to receive passes when other players weren’t open.
“Since we’ve played (the Wildcats) three times now, we had an idea of what they do on their breakout,” Way said. “We did a very good job of stepping in front of every ball that was passed to us.”
Four minutes into the second half, Way did just that, positioning herself well for freshman midfielder Kayla Reed’s pass. She knocked it in the cage to extend the lead to 2-0.
Way’s third goal was perhaps the most impressive of all, as she dove to receive a pass, then tipped the ball right through Northwestern goalkeeper Annie Kalfa’s legs.
“She has magical hands, and it was evident today,” Pankratz said. “We needed it.”
But the Wildcats weren’t letting up easily. They put the Wolverines’ defense to the test by drawing three consecutive penalty corners. After the first two shots were blocked, Northwestern attempted a direct shot. Swenson, though, was there to make the save.
“Our corner (defense) executed really well,” Swenson said. “We’re really focused because they are very dangerous on corners.”
The Wildcats’ speed wasn’t a problem for the Wolverines. They knew Northwestern’s strategy was to play quickly, and they were prepared.
A quick shot by Northwestern midfielder Kaitlin Wood looked like a surefire goal, but Swenson made it there first, using her leg to block the shot.
“The final foray at the end, (the defense) managed it really well,” Swenson said. “We weathered the storm.”
One final blocked shot sealed the win and a spot in the Final Four against Maryland.
“I’m so excited,” Swenson said. “I think we can do special things.”