The last time the Michigan field hockey team played Northwestern, the game went into a second overtime period before the Wolverines found the winning goal. In the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the teams went one step further.
After regulation and both overtimes ended at a 2-2 draw, No. 2 Michigan (14-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) defeated the No. 5 Wildcats (14-5, 5-3) 2-1 in a shootout that went to the wire. With the win, the Wolverines advance to the Big Ten semifinals, where they’ll face No. 1 Iowa.
“We and Northwestern are incredibly evenly matched,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We’ve had two of the best games I’ve seen in a long time this season.”
The Wolverines entered the game down a key player in Kathryn Peterson. The senior midfielder, who was voted 2nd-Team All-Big Ten, will miss the tournament for undisclosed reasons.
In Peterson’s stead, freshman Abby Tamer was moved to a starting center midfielder role.
“We usually have Abby on the wings, so moving her to the center, as a freshman playing a do-or-die game, it was a risk,” Pankratz said. “She played tremendously though. She really stepped up in Kathryn’s absence.”
In the first quarter, Northwestern began with an offensive blitz, outshooting the Wolverines 5-1.
That lone shot was all Michigan needed, however, to take an early lead. In the 10th minute of the quarter, senior forward Katie Anderson stepped just inside the scoring arc and fired a long-distance shot past Wildcat goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz.
The second quarter proved a reversal of fortunes; while the Wolverines found seemingly all the shots, Northwestern capitalized on their lone shot off the stick of forward Clara Roth to tie the game at one.
Coming out of the halftime break, Michigan put the pressure on the Wildcats, tallying nine shots taken in the third quarter and no shots allowed. The offensive overload led to a 40th minute scrum where senior midfielder Sofia Southam dove to the ball and pushed it just past Skubisz’s pad.
Ultimately, Michigan would only hold the lead again for six minutes of game play. Just 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Wildcat midfielder Maren Seidel converted a penalty corner to tie the game up once more.
The rest of the fourth quarter saw back and forth possessions for each team, but few shots. Northwestern’s best chance at the end of regulation was broken up by a diving steal from Tamer, who cleared the ball as the buzzer rang.
“My defense was there for me when it counted most,” senior goalkeeper Anna Spieker said. “I rely on them as much as they rely on me.”
The absence of Peterson, the teams’ primary corner inserter, was felt strongly in the first overtime period for the Wolverines. Despite having three chances, none were converted.
Spieker was a stalwart in the cage though, and prevented a game winner from being scored when Michigan found itself down a player at the start of the second overtime period. Ultimately, neither team could end the game before the period was finished.
In the shootout, Michigan drew first blood, as Anderson beat Skubisz on a hesitation shot in the Wolverines’ first opportunity. Northwestern was unsuccessful in its first two chances, but evened the score after forward Bente Baekars bent a shot past Spieker’s right boot.
After junior midfielder Nina Apoola earned the Wolverines’ second shootout score on their fifth and final shot, it all came down to Spieker. Despite Wildcat forward Ana Garcia’s best effort to trick her, Spieker blocked the shot with ease, ending the game and sending the Wolverines to the Big Ten Semifinals.
“Getting the win today was huge for us,” Spieker said. “We showed we’re better than the end of the season played out for us.
“Now we got to ride out the momentum and see where it takes us.”
Daily sports writer David Woelkers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @dawjr98