Emma Way wanted to prove her coach wrong.
After starting the first five games of the season, the junior forward found herself on the bench as the buzzer sounded to begin the match at Ocker Field on Sunday afternoon.
She was clearly frustrated. Rather than sulk though, she channeled that anger into success. Way anchored the Michigan field hockey team’s offense by recording the first hat trick of her career.
“Two of (my goals) were actually assisted by my good friend Meg (Dowthwaite) and we connect really well,” Way said. “So it felt good to score goals with her today.”
Inserted in the 10th minute, Way quickly began her offensive surge, scoring eight minutes later on a rebound shot. Then, she added two more goals in the second half — the first off a pass from the right side — and another to cap off her performance, a one-timer from the middle of the circle.
Sunday’s performance was a long time coming for Way — even if she began the game on the bench. Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz has noticed improvements in Way’s confidence and aggressiveness.
While the offensive side of Way’s game shined the most on Sunday, her defense, in particular, has really stood out to Pankratz this season.
“Her tackling back and doubling down on defense creates a lot of counterattack opportunities for her,” Pankratz said. “And she’s just so natural at getting great touches on the ball. It’s something you can’t teach, it’s really special.
“She’s just a dangerous dynamic player. It’s just fun to watch.”
It is traits such as these that have made Way a consistent starter this season. But for Pankratz, with her team in the midst of a two-game of losing streak — including a shutout loss Friday night — she needed to shake up her lineup.
Her tinkering paid off. Seven different players Michigan scored nine goals for Michigan against UC Davis.
“It feels great,” Pankratz said. “We were really deep and had a lot of versatility in the goal scoring, and that’s hard to scout and hard to play against, so I feel great about it. We have a lot of talented players.”
As an upperclassman on a team with eight freshmen, Way is often looked as a symbol of stability and assistance. Frequently, the young players will look to her for guidance and advice.
And while some older players may grow tired of this questioning, Way sees it as an honor, enjoying helping the first-year members of the team adjust to the rigors of NCAA life.
Pankratz notices the impact that players such as Way have made on the freshmen.
“She’s being more assertive and has a great presence on the field,” Pankratz said. “And so she has been running down plays and doubling down and making a difference in the circle and outmaneuvering the defender and making some really confident goal-scoring shots.”
Though she initially was upset at her coach’s decision to go with an atypical starting lineup, Way used the shift as motivation for a career game. Her coach was happy too, as her shifts with the starters led to an offensive barrage.