Maggie Bettez had Friday’s game circled on her calendar for two years.
The senior midfielder is originally from Acton, Mass., but the Michigan field hockey team hadn’t played in her home state during her college career until this past weekend. Her friends and family came out to cheer her on, a moment she won’t soon forget.
And the game didn’t disappoint, either. The fifth-ranked Wolverines (1-3 overall) picked up their first win of the season against Massachusetts (2-2), commanding the game from the start in a 5-0 victory.
Despite not scoring until the 25th minute — when senior forward Emma Way launched a reverse shot that found the back of the cage — Michigan smothered the Minutewomen. Massachusetts had just two shots the entire game and failed to draw a single penalty corner.
The Wolverines complemented that defense with an offensive onslaught. Sophomore back Halle O’Neill and senior back Regan Leavitt both scored goals after corners. Junior forward Meg Dowthwaite tallied her first goal of the season late in the first half and Way added to the tally early in the second.
“The first four games this year were all very challenging and we’ve been knocking on the doorstep of winning for the whole year so far,” Bettez said. “So to get the first win was … a confidence booster and it came at a good time for us.”
The victory came just in time for the Wolverines’ Sunday matchup with No. 1 Connecticut (4-0), the reigning national champion. But Michigan wasn’t fazed by the top competition. Though they lost, 2-1, the Wolverines used their underdog status to take risks with their game, several of which paid off.
“We wanted to go right at them,” Bettez said. “We played confident rather than worrying about each little play.”
When Way stole the ball from a Husky defender and punched it in the goal less than five minutes into the game, it only bolstered that confidence.
At first, Michigan was able to fend off Connecticut’s relentless pressure. Freshman goalkeeper Anna Spieker made 11 saves and the corner defense kept the Huskies from scoring on their first eight penalty opportunities.
“(Spieker) made some really key saves,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “Made some wonderful decisions back there, just played with a lot of confidence, so I think that helps our defense feel confident.”
But early in the second half, the Huskies evened the score on a rebound after a save and scored the winning goal off a penalty corner with 10 minutes remaining. Michigan could only manage a lone corner and one shot on goal the entire period.
The Wolverines scored first and led for over half the game, but Connecticut dominated possession throughout. That was the dichotomy that made Michigan’s loss seem at once a disappointment and an inevitability.
“We took a lot away that we can build on,” Bettez said. “… Playing a full 70 minutes. We have spurts of fantastic play (but) it’s important to be consistent for the entire game.”