When senior defender Mackenzie Ellis went down with an injury Friday night, the Michigan field hockey team turned to a freshman, Maggie Bettez, to step in. Bettez rose to the challenge, and along with the rest of the freshman class, made key contributions in a pair of wins this weekend.
Bettez and the other freshmen helped the Wolverines improve to 6-2 (1-0 Big Ten) this weekend with 3-1 wins over No. 18 Penn State and Kent State at Ocker Field.
Two of the freshmen, Bettez and forward Lydia Sydnor, earned starts in both games, making key plays to help their team come out on top.
“We knew coming (into Michigan) we were coming into an amazing program,” Bettez said. “We all just wanted to be ready to help out in any way we could, whether that’s cheering or in practice making people better. It’s awesome to be able to contribute in the game.”
Sydnor’s father and mother both played college sports, and her athletic background was on display Friday night against the Nittany Lions. Sydnor led the Michigan attack, speeding and cutting through the Penn State defense. She and the rest of the attack drew six penalty corners, which Michigan converted into two of its three goals.
Sydnor’s speed also provided deep pass opportunities for the back line, giving the defense an outlet whenever she snuck behind opponents.
“I definitely think their defenders weren’t ready for it,” Sydnor said. “And it’s not just me who’s fast. I think we have one of the fastest forward lines in the Big Ten.”
Bettez played in the midfield Friday night, distributing the ball to the offense and roving forward whenever the Penn State defense was too concerned with the Wolverines’ attack. Her freedom on the field was due in part to having a veteran defensive line to back her up.
“We are always communicating,” Bettez said. “I know that they are always supporting me. Without that, it would be a lot harder to do what we do in the midfield.”
Bettez moved into the defense Sunday against the Golden Flashes, filling for the injured Ellis, who had started the previous seven games for Michigan.
“Maggie is very level-headed as a freshman,” said senior defender Lauren Thomas. “She’s played at the highest level in high school, so she knows what she needs to bring, and it’s a really good thing for us to have new people in there too, just in case things like today do happen as the season goes on. She did a really good job, and she handled herself.”
Sydnor joined fellow freshmen Leah Cardarelli and Marleise Emrhein in the forward rotation against Kent State, showing the full depth the class adds to the team.
“All of our freshmen and all of our forwards have been rotating through,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “The players that are making plays are getting in there a lot, and (Sydnor) is one of them. She has been really dangerous and been working hard. She’s done a nice job.”