Defense secures win for Michigan field hockey over Buckeyes

By Simon Kaufman, For the Daily
Published October 14, 2012

Stellar defense was the key to the Michigan field hockey team’s 3-1 victory over rival Ohio State at a packed Ocker Field on Sunday.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of the team this weekend,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. The weekend included an overtime victory against Michigan State on Friday.

Michigan (2-2 Big Ten, 9-5 overall) managed just six shots and one penalty corner in the first half against the Buckeyes (1-3, 9-6) who produced eight shots and had six penalty corners in the first 35 minutes of play.

“We worked hard on that this week,” Pankratz said of defending corner penalties. “We put a couple wrinkles in just for the game plan against Ohio State to, you know, defend a different way, and it really really worked for us.”

The wrinkles eventually worked, but Ohio State managed to strike once.

The Buckeyes finally found the back of the net in the 32nd minute capitalizing on a corner. Ohio State forward Danica Deckard slapped a line drive from within the circle that tipped off the right post and tied the game at 1-1.

“They kind of bombarded us with the corners,” said redshirt junior goalkeeper Haley Jones, “But I think we practiced (defending) them a lot, and I know this week we watched a lot of film and anticipated it well so it’s just about staying composed and calm when those happen.”

And composed is exactly how Michigan’s defense played the rest of the game. The Wolverines allowed just five shots on goal and gave up just two penalty corners in the second half.

The Buckeyes’ best chance to go ahead came at the 43rd-minute mark when Jones dove at the top of the circle to break up a play leaving the net wide open, but a noteworthy save by freshman defender Lauren Thomas kept the score even.

After a tiring first half, Jones, who is also a captain, said it was her the Wolverines’ ability to not get down on themselves that let them bounce back in the second half.

“We just try and really keep positive tone, positive talk, in the back,” she said.

Freshmen forward Aisling Naughton scored Michigan’s first goal of the game in the second minute but felt that having an early lead meant that the team had to play strong defense the rest of the way to ensure a win.

“Our motto every game is to 11 attack and 11 defend so we all just went all out and was like we need to protect this and get the win,” she said.

The strategy paid off for the Wolverines as they evened their Big Ten record at 2-2 in front of a homecoming crowd with more than 700 in attendance. A goal by junior forward Rachael Mack in the 61st minute, followed by a goal from redshirt sophomore back Leslie Smith in the 67th minute, allowed Michigan’s defense to finally exhale.

“They took care of business,” Pankratz said, “ I didn’t really have to do much coaching today at all.”