With two wins over ranked opponents this weekend, the No. 16 Michigan field hockey team is becoming a national force. The Wolverines’ wins over Iowa and Stanford came in different fashions, but both were extremely important for Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz and her team.
Friday’s game against No. 20 Iowa was a dominant display from the Wolverines on both offense and defense, as they came away with a 4-0 victory.
“It was a huge game,” Pankratz said. “We rose to the occasion and played well. I was really proud of the team.”
Senior back Lauren Thomas came up with two goals in the win, her fourth and fifth of the season, while senior forward Shannon Scavelli and sophomore back Katie Trombetta also netted a goal each.
“We can’t win if our team is not performing and scoring goals,” Thomas said. “So that’s really nice to be able to say that I can help with that.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Sam Swenson complemented the offensive outpouring by holding the Hawkeyes scoreless. The performance marked the team’s fifth shutout of the year. However, Swenson, who played most of the game before being relieved by redshirt junior Chris Lueb with 11 minutes remaining, was quick to give praise to her teammates for their contributions to the shutout.
“It comes from the defense, and the midfield, and the offense first,” Swenson said. “Then it comes to us. But our defense does all of the hard work, and then (Lueb) really got the shutout in the end.”
Following Friday’s win, the Wolverines traveled to Evanston to take on No. 9 Stanford at a neutral site.
Michigan drew first blood when Scavelli scored her second goal of the weekend 15 minutes into the game.
One goal was all the Wolverines would need, as the Cardinal had no answer for Michigan’s stout defense. Stanford fell victim to the Wolverines’ second straight shutout, 1-0.
The two wins from the weekend could have larger implications for Michigan, not only in terms of momentum, but also in terms of NCAA ranking as the postseason approaches.
Because of their current ranking, the Wolverines aren’t yet shoe-ins for the 16-team NCAA Tournament. Defeating top teams will help Michigan’s case.
While the weekend wins marked the Wolverines’ fifth and sixth shutouts of the year and improved the team’s record against ranked opponents to 3-3, Michigan remains focused simply on being at its best by the end of the season.
“We have a debriefing after every game,” Pankratz said. “Win or lose, we’re trying to learn, trying to grow.”
Even with the big weekend, the Wolverines still have room for improvement. They will travel on the road for their next three games before returning to Ann Arbor for their regular season finale against Ohio State on October 31.
But if Michigan continues to play as it has over its five-game winnng streak, with timely offense and lockdown defense, it will be hard to keep the Wolverines out of the NCAA tournament.