The difference in penalty corners proved critical in the No. 4 Michigan field hockey team's loss to fifth-ranked Louisville. Selena Sun/Daily. Buy this photo.

Down by one goal with just over four minutes left to play, the No. 4 Michigan field hockey team pulled sophomore goalkeeper Caylie McMahon to bring an extra attacker onto the field. 

The Wolverines drew three penalty corners and fired off multiple shots in the ensuing three-minute period but were unable to capitalize, as Michigan (3-2 overall) fell to No 5. Louisville (6-0), 2-1.

From the start, it was apparent that both teams were evenly matched. Entering halftime scoreless, the Wolverines had outshot the Cardinals 3-2, but they were outcornered, 2-0. This pattern continued into the second half, as corners ultimately proved to be Michigan’s downfall. 

“We got tons of opportunities at the last minute of the game,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “And we have to capitalize and actually execute under pressure on those corners and score. And we failed to do that.”

The Wolverines struck first with a goal from fifth-year forward Katie Anderson with two minutes left in the third quarter. But Louisville wasted no time, answering with a goal off a penalty corner deflection within a minute. 

As the game remained tied for the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, it grew more physical. The teams traded green cards, but neither could capitalize when they were up a player. 

With four-and-a-half minutes left, the Cardinals were awarded two penalty corners, bringing their total up to seven on the game. On the second, a rifling shot found the back of the cage for what ultimately ended up being the difference maker.

“You gotta execute a corner defense,” Pankratz said. “So we have to work on that this week.”

By contrast, Michigan only had four penalty corners — three of which came in the last two minutes of the game. And on each one, the Wolverines failed to convert. 

On the first of the final three corners, a Louisville defender stepped over the line too quickly, which led to the Cardinals losing a defensive player during the insertion. Even with that advantage, Michigan couldn’t score in what was its most favorable chance of the quarter.

Despite outshooting Louisville 11-6, the Wolverines couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities when it mattered. 

Heading into conference play, it’s clear what Michigan needs to work on moving forward. The team struggled with corners in their previous game, too. But if the Wolverines can generate — and capitalize on — more penalty corners and prevent their opponents from getting as many good looks, the team will be in good hands. 

If not, Michigan is in for a difficult season.