As fifth-year forward Katie Anderson dribbled the ball near midfield with her back to the net, using her body to block the Miami of Ohio defenders from the ball as the clock wound down. When it hit zero and the final whistle blew, the Michigan field hockey team reaped the rewards of its staunch play while proving the legitimacy of its defense.
For a group constantly referred to as a deep team, the Wolverines demonstrated just how much depth their defense has during Thursday’s shutout of the RedHawks.
“When you’re this deep, you don’t let up, the team won’t let up,” Michigan fifth-year midfielder Kathryn Peterson said. “If your efforts or your fitness is dipping a little bit, the next girl is ready to go on and she’ll keep the level right.”
And for the defense, whose energy remained pervasive from start to finish, that was evident.
In last Sunday’s 9-0 beatdown of Central Michigan, the Wolverines’ defense faced few tests, with their offense serving as the story of the game. On Thursday, though, Michigan seamlessly adjusted to a threatening opposing offense and showed that its strengths extend beyond offensive prowess.
And the Wolverines aren’t quiet about the success they’ve found through communication.
“We practiced all week about organizing our defense early and making sure that we have the players who’s not marking anyone, and that they can be in line to goal,” Peterson said. “Setting that up and organizing that verbally so that it actually happens. And I thought we were a lot louder than we normally are, and so it showed that we practiced it.”
From the opening minutes of the game, the Michigan defense showed how dialed in it was, communicating loudly between one another and applying pressure to Miami whenever it had the ball. The constant stress that the Wolverines put on the RedHawks proved effective, making them visibly uncomfortable. That translated into additional opportunities for the Michigan offense.
By preventing Miami from taking a single shot in the first half, the Wolverines’ defense showed the efficacy of their persistence. It played steadfast as a unit, especially when the RedHawks tried to threaten through fast break opportunities.
Despite Miami breaking ahead into the Wolverines half multiple times throughout the game, their intensity and speed caught up to the RedHawks, preventing those opportunities from turning into good looks. By doing so, Michigan limited the RedHawks to two corner penalties and two shots all game — both in the final quarter.
“I think we … played really good team defense, and there were a lot of fast breaks,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We had to hustle back when we were tired, so this is a lot about fortitude and competitiveness for our team.”
In a tight back-and-forth game, fortitude and tenacity can be all the difference. And in Thursday’s win for the Wolverines, they were just that.