Since Oct. 16, the Michigan field hockey team has faced off against Iowa three times. The Wolverines won the first two games handily, shutting out the Hawkeyes in both contests.
But the third time, the stakes were even higher.
With a trip to the Big Ten Semifinals on the line, the Wolverines stepped up to the challenge of beating the same opponent three times in one season.
Thursday afternoon, fourth-seeded Michigan (12-5 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) beat fifth-seeded Iowa (11-7, 4-4), 3-0, for a third straight shutout in which the Wolverines dominated offensively and controlled possession all game.
“It’s not easy to beat a team three times in one season especially one as good as Iowa,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “As the season went along we grew and learned from those past games and I’m very proud of the way we played today.”
The first quarter was dominated by Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines ended with five shots and held the Hawkeyes to zero. The scoring opened quickly, less than 10 minutes into the game, with a goal from junior midfielder Erin Reilly off an assist from fifth year forward Katie Anderson. The strong defense and control of possession led to success on the offensive end and resulted in the quick goal.
“All 11 players on the field got their heads down so (Iowa) couldn’t make the passes they wanted to make,” Pankratz said. “We were able to intercept a lot of those passes because of our pressure on the ball.”
Iowa entered the second quarter with a heightened sense of urgency. But it didn’t faze the Wolverines, who continued their domination on attack by finding the back of the net, again, with graduate forward Tina D’Anjolell scoring just seven minutes into the quarter. Immediately following the goal, another opportunity arose off a shot from senior forward Sarah Pyrtek but was blocked on the goalline by Iowa midfielder Esme Gibson.
Michigan’s persistent offensive pressure didn’t let up until the final whistle at half. Finishing with eight shots compared to the Hawkeyes’ two, the Wolverines continued to dominate possession in the first half.
“We knew how important today’s game was,” D’Anjolell said. “All our built up excitement came up onto the field and we’ve been practicing all week for this moment and our offense really shined.”
Michigan did not score on any of its first four corners, but the fifth and final corner of the game led to its final goal of the game, scored by junior forward Kate McLaughlin and assisted again by Anderson. The Wolverines all but sealed their position in the semifinals early in the third quarter as the Hawkeyes began to lose hope.
“We had a lot of good movement up front,” Anderson said. “My teammates were in the right place and it made it easy to find them and get easy opportunities.”
The final quarter was no exception to the trend of dominance. Michigan continued to pressure the Iowa defense despite finishing without a goal in the fourth quarter. But, the Wolverines finished with 16 shots seven of which were on goal and contained Iowa to just three. While they were unable to score in the fourth, their continued pressure and intensity until the very end led to a victory.
“It’s tournament time,” Pankratz said. “Our team is very motivated and I think we’re playing very well. We have to play for 60 minutes and we did that.”
Now, Michigan looks to continue that momentum and offensive intensity through the rest of the Big Ten Tournament.