After clinching the regular season Big Ten championship, the No. 4 Michigan field hockey team continued its season-long string of success against elite competition by beating No. 7 Louisville, 6-2.
The Wolverines, who haven’t lost since Sept. 8, wasted no time showing the fans at the Marshall Center which of the two postseason-bound squads was the superior one.
Two minutes into the game, the Cardinals’ goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran deflected senior midfielder Katie Trombetta’s corner shot, but freshman defender Halle O’Neill recovered the rebound and shot the ball into the bottom of the goal. Two of the Wolverines’ three goals in the first half resulted from penalty corners in which Michigan took advantage of the chaos in the Louisville defense to score.
“Both of my assists were off two corners,” Trombetta said. “I think that they were both great corner calls from the coaches, and on the first one, Halle did a great job of just staying low and getting to the ball no matter what.”
The Wolverines scored three times on goalkeeper-deflected balls, including a goal by Emma Way in the 10th minute. The junior forward danced her way through a crowd of Cardinals defenders in the box and waltzed right past Louisville’s goalkeeper for an easy finish.
Louisville wasn’t able to find much success against the Michigan back line. Although the Wolverines allowed two goals — above their season average of 0.81 allowed per game — one came after three consecutive penalty corners.
“They just played with a lot of heart and they defended really well,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “Their transition from attack to defense and vice versa was excellent. They lead hard, double team hard for each other and did all those little things that matter.”
Arguably the best of the six goals of the game occurred in the 40th minute. Trombetta streaked down the field and fired a pass toward the stick of fifth-year senior forward Carly Bennett. But rather than picking her stick up, the forward laid her stick down, angled it slightly upwards and didn’t move. The result — much like many of Michigan’s shots Sunday — was a score.
“That’s actually a play that the corner offense has been practicing for a while,” Bennett said. “We kind of established that that would be an open play in this game. We’ve been practicing it a lot, and Katie’s shooting has been really on for us lately. She scored the winning goal at Northwestern, so all of us as a corner unit were saying ‘Do this exactly how we practiced.’ Katie set me up with the perfect pass, and it worked.”
While the game did not have any regular season implications for the Wolverines, Michigan faced a Louisville foe akin to many of the elite teams it may see in the postseason.
“It’s always great to play a good team like Louisville,” Pankratz said. “There are still things we want to improve on before the tournament starts next weekend. They’re also an in-region team, so beating another team in our region certainly helps us for the NCAA Tournament.”