Field hockey opens season with two losses on road

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By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 2, 2014

After three weeks of training on the East Coast, two season-opening losses to ranked teams and a new facility completed construction in Ann Arbor, the Michigan field hockey team is returning home.

The 17th-ranked Wolverines, unable to train at Phyllis Ocker Field due to lagging construction, capped a nearly month-long trip to Virginia and North Carolina with an 0-2 showing at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, closing their trip with a 5-1 loss to No. 2 North Carolina followed by a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 11 Wake Forest.

Practicing hundreds of miles away from home wasn’t ideal for Michigan, but the opening game of the 2014 season proved worse. Facing off against the powerful Tar Heels, the Wolverines fell behind 2-0 in the first 10 minutes. Just eight minutes into the second half, North Carolina commanded a five-goal lead.

An unassisted goal by junior back Jaime Dean in the 58th minute gave Michigan its first goal of the year, but the tally didn’t matter after the Tar Heels’ scoring barrage. The Wolverines were outshot, 21-5, and were only able to draw two penalty corners to North Carolina’s eight.

Michigan showed improvement Sunday vs. Wake Forest, but didn’t come away with a victory. Returning to action after a top-eight finish last season, the Demon Deacons took a 2-1 lead just before halftime.

The score remained unchanged until senior back Leslie Smith scored as time expired, sending the game to overtime in dramatic fashion.

Despite dominating possession in the second half and outshooting Wake Forest 17-12, the Wolverines fell short in overtime, allowing the game-winning goal less than five minutes in.

While Michigan improved as the weekend wore on, the team still has many holes to fill. Losing longtime goalkeeper Haley Jones and all-time leading scorer Rachael Mack from last season’s team, Michigan pines for new leaders to step up.

Over the weekend, sophomore Chris Lueb and freshman Sam Swenson split time in goal, recording eight and six saves, respectively. In the field, Smith and senior Ainsley McCallister helped control possession and push the offense. Still, no bona fide scoring threat exists yet.

With arguably the toughest opening weekend in the country, Michigan was presented with a unique opportunity to learn its weaknesses early. Big Ten play begins in three weeks, so the losses have the potential to be more valuable than wins.

But above all else, the Wolverines will just be happy to finally be home.

Editor’s Note: Coaches and players were not made available for interviews.