Just one week after pulling off a critical top-10 win against Iowa, the Michigan field hockey team again took the pitch against the Hawkeyes Sunday afternoon.
The Wolverines (4-3 Big Ten, 9-5 overall) and Iowa (3-4, 10-5) were ranked No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, entering Sunday’s match. Michigan proved its dominance, coming away with a 1-0 road win. The game was tight, but the Wolverines’ defense made all the difference.
“The pressing was the best it’s been all season,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “It was amazing. The effort from every single player was just off the charts and I was just really, really proud of our team and effort we played with today.”
As Pankratz alluded to, strong pressure and hustle all over the field propelled the Wolverines.
The first quarter was a back-and-forth battle. Both teams had three offensive corners and multiple shots on goal, and each goalie made impressive saves to keep the game scoreless.
In the second quarter, things began to shift in Michigan’s favor. Throughout the rest of the game, the team would have the offensive edge, securing 16 more shot attempts and five more corners, while Iowa had none.
The game was scoreless heading into halftime, but Michigan came out hungry in the second half. It dominated play and kept possession for the majority of the remainder of the game.
With less than five minutes left, junior midfielder Pilar Oliveros scored off of a corner play, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead and preventing overtime. And though the team didn’t score until late in the game, they never doubted themselves.
“We were all super excited to face (Iowa) again,” Oliveros said. “We knew we could beat them because we beat them once (last week), so we were really excited and we were not going to take a no for an answer.”
Oliveros’ goal was a result of an entire team effort throughout the entirety of the first 55 minutes of play. Michigan played with a level of cohesion that it has been working towards all season.
In the last five minutes, the Hawkeyes pulled their goalkeeper, Grace McGuire, giving them an extra offensive attacker in hopes of tying things up. The Wolverines’ defense withstood the extra player, demonstrating relentless effort that ultimately kept the ball out of the back of their net.
“Everyone was coming back on defense and diving for balls,” Oliveros said. “That attitude just spreads energy and keeps everyone’s momentum going.”
That all-out mentality is something that has been a consistent part of the Michigan’s play all season long, and is often what sets the team apart in close games.
“I’m really pleased with how we’re playing,” Pankratz said. “It’s a good time to be playing well.”
Pankratz is right — the Wolverines only have one regular season game left, and it’s against rival Ohio State.
Michigan’s players know that anything can happen in a high-stakes rivalry game, but if they’re able to sustain the effort and energy that they showed against Iowa, they should be prepared.