Down 1-0 against No. 7 Penn State on Friday, the No. 2 Michigan field hockey team (13-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) shifted into a higher gear, scoring twice in the final ten minutes to take the lead. With three minutes left in the game, the Wolverines were finally in the driver’s seat.
It ended up being three minutes too long. With the game clock in it’s final ticks, the Nittany Lions (13-4, 4-2) tied it up to send the game into overtime. After a back and forth start to the period, the Wolverines’ 2021 regular season was ended in the seventh minute with a disappointing 3-2 loss.
“The team worked hard to come back from being behind,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We just had one too many elements that weren’t up to snuff.”
While both teams started slow — combining for only four shots in the first half — the pace was quickly picked up in the second. Just 90 seconds into the third quarter, Penn State forward Emma Spisak fired a shot past senior goalkeeper Anna Spieker.
The momentum stayed firmly in the Nittany Lions’ corner, as they held the Wolverines to just one shot on goal. In the fourth quarter, however, Michigan fired on all cylinders offensively, putting six shots on goal off the sticks of five Wolverine players.
Though Penn State goalkeeper Brie Barraco was able to save the majority of the shots, one of the saves bounced right to Michigan freshman midfielder Alana Richardson who put it back on the net for the first of the Wolverines’ day.
Michigan found its tie-breaker with less than three minutes left to play, in a penalty corner conversion off the stick of senior midfielder Sofia Southam.
“One of our strengths this year has been our perseverance,” redshirt senior Halle O’Neill said. “Even though we haven’t trailed that many times, we’ve still been able to pull back even when we’ve needed to and then get ahead.”
The lead was short lived however as Penn State forward Sophia Gladieux snuck the ball past Spieker just one minute later to end regulation tied at two. In the overtime period, the Wolverines initially were in firm control but faltered after being unable to find the back of the cage in their three chances.
The Nittany Lions took advantage, and midfielder Mackenzie Allessie ended the game in the seventh minute.
“Any team can beat any team in the Big Ten, no matter where you are in the rankings,” Pankratz said. “If you don’t play all 60, 70, however many minutes it takes to get a result, you’re not giving yourself the best chance to win, plain and simple.”
After starting with a perfect 11-0 record, the Wolverines suffered a shaky finish to their campaign, losing three of their final five games. Members of the team chalked part of the issue up to the schedule; of their final five games, four — including all three losses — came against top 10 opposition.
“The scheduling was rough this year,” O’Neill said. “We ended up facing the best teams as they were reaching their stride.
“That being said, it’s hard to beat a good team twice. We’ll face at least one of the teams that beat us again in the tournaments, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Daily sports writer David Woelkers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @dawjr98