Michigan returns home after long stint out east

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By Mitch Beckman, Field Hockey returning home for weekend series
Published September 4, 2014

After weeks on the road, Michigan field hockey is finally home.

Due to lagging renovations to Phyllis Ocker Field, the Wolverines were forced to spend their preseason training in Virginia, then lost their season-opening games to No. 2 North Carolina (2-0) and No. 11 Wake Forest (1-1) — 5-1 and 3-2, respectively. Now, Ocker Field is ready and No. 17 Michigan is looking to gain its first win of the year.

Week two of the season features William & Mary on Saturday, followed by Central Michigan on Sunday, and all three teams will be searching for their first win. The Tribe fell to Virginia and Richmond, while the Chippewas were upended by Maine and Duke.

Though the Wolverines came out of their first weekend winless, Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz was pleased with how the team adapted to the unique situation.

“The team did great,” Pankratz said. “We were doing everything on the fly and had three weeks in hotels. I’m really proud of the way they handled it and now we’re super excited to be back at the best facility in the nation.”

Historically, the Wolverines have fared well against William & Mary and Central Michigan, notching a combined 36-16-2 record against the pair. Despite the success, Michigan is still wary of its opponents.

“Both teams this weekend are strong programs,” Pankratz said. “William & Mary has a long tradition as a program and Central is a tough team too. We need to play well against both to win.”

Heading into the weekend, the team is looking to shore up its offensive play, particularly around the goal. Against Wake Forest, the Wolverines outshot Wake Forest 17-12 but could only muster two goals. The same problem plagued them against North Carolina, when they scored only once.

“We played well, especially in the Wake Forest game,” Pankratz said. “We couldn’t finish on offense, and that’s something we want to fix this weekend. We just need to polish up the details.”

In the net, Michigan split time between goaltenders last weekend and will likely do it again. Against both Wake Forest and North Carolina, redshirt sophomore Chris Leub started in goal while freshman Sam Swenson took over for the second half. After one weekend of level play between the goaltenders, there is no clear separation between the two.

No matter who ends up in net this weekend, the Wolverines are optimistic that a pair of homecoming wins could be the start of something big at their new home.