That was the word on everyone’s lips after No. 15 Michigan (13-7) fell to No. 4 Louisville (16-6), 2-1, in double overtime Friday. The field hockey team’s loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament put an end to its season.
Coming into a game against a higher-ranked opponent, the Wolverines spent the week coming up with a technical game plan and rediscovering a sense of confidence after losing three of their last four games.
That confidence was clear from the first play of the game. Michigan drove the ball down the field again and again, showing a mixture of its trademark defense and an offensive energy that had been lacking in the team’s recent games. Despite their recent struggles, the Wolverines have proven time and again their ability to compete against ranked opponents with wins against No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Connecticut and No. 10 Wake Forest. On Friday, that same confidence was there, though the results left the Wolverines with a sour taste.
“If we’d had played badly, we’d have accepted it more because it’s fair enough that we lost because we didn’t have a great game,” said senior midfielder Meg Dowthwaite. “But, no, we haven’t played very well for the past few weeks. We’ve had a few losses and pulling it all together, it’s a harder one to swallow I think.”
Twelve minutes in, Dowthaite took the first shot of the game from just inside the circle. The ball sailed past the Cardinals’ goaltender for the Wolverines’ first — and only — goal of the game.
Five minutes later, Louisville responded. Off a corner, a shot was fired into the right side of Michigan’s goal. But then, the clock stopped. Seconds turned to minutes as officials reviewed the goal. Eventually, the verdict was in: the Louisville midfielder’s stick was too high. The goal wasn’t counted.
“Everyone was confused,” Dowthwaite said. “Yeah, it was stressful, but I think we defended it really well and knew it was going to come out our way. We just collected together, focused on better defense going into the next quarter.”
From then on, it was a deadlock. Both teams had strong shots on goal, but it was largely a battle between two great defenses.
“I think our defense has been really solid all season long,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “I think they play as a unit and are always really tough.”
The ball ricocheted back and forth across the field, constantly changing possession. With 45 seconds left in the half, the Cardinals capitalized off a corner, tying the game at one.
Michigan didn’t let up — maintaining its pressure on defense and continuing to drive the ball into the circle on offense. But, when it came down to it, the shots weren’t falling. Louisville’s goaltender, Hollyn Barr, seemed to be one step ahead, making seven crucial saves despite the Wolverines’ best efforts.
The game went into overtime and — without a goal — double overtime. Sixty-seven minutes after Michigan’s first and only goal, the Cardinals put an end to the game with a single shot.
“They finished,” Dowthwaite said. “They just finished. They got two opportunities and they scored both of them. They were more clinical.”
With those two opportunities, the game was lost. With those two opportunities, the Wolverines’ season was over.
“… It’s definitely a really hard way to end,” Dowthwaite said. “The fact that we’d played so well and had such a good game. We were just really unlucky.”