It’s not every day you can hold an opponent without a shot on goal.

Even among the festivities of Senior Day, the No. 11 Michigan field hockey team maintained its competitive form Saturday, grounded in strong and experienced defense, against Ohio State. The Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten, 15-3 overall) earned their third straight shutout — their seventh in nine games — after rolling over the Buckeyes, 3-0.

“I feel great about today,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “It’s tough playing the Buckeyes. They’re a great team, very solid and very dangerous, and to play them on Senior Day with a lot of distractions for us is not an easy task. I was really proud of our team for staying focused and really being professional. They played great defense.”

Both teams initially struggled to generate any semblance of an offense. In the first 10 minutes, Ohio State (4-4, 9-9) had only one penalty corner and Michigan had one shot attempt.

The Wolverines finally broke through the Buckeye defense with a penalty corner around the 11-minute mark. Freshman forward Emma Way scored off a rebound from sophomore midfielder Katie Trombetta.

The Michigan defense proved very tough for Ohio State to handle in both the midfield and penalty circle. In the first half, the Buckeyes had no shot attempts and just two penalty corners.

When the first half came to a close, defense went from beneficial to essential for the Wolverines. With about nine minutes left, senior back Lauren Thomas was issued a yellow card, suspending her for 10 minutes. Soon after, senior midfielder Jaime Dean was also issued a yellow card and a five-minute suspension. Michigan had to hold off the Ohio State offense while being down one player for five minutes and down two for another five minutes.

“We were having to play defense the whole time,” Pankratz said. “It’s 11-9, which is really difficult to do, so I was incredibly proud of the nine players who were in there.”

Added Thomas: “Our attackers have been defenders as well. The work rate from the front line has just trickled back. We’ve been able to keep them out of our 25 or out of our circle, which has really helped with the defensive effort. It’s been a whole team effort, not just the defensive line.”

The Wolverines returned to full strength at the start of the second half, bringing an onslaught along with it. In the second half alone, Michigan had 15 shot attempts and seven penalty corners. In the tail end of the second half, Thomas and fifth-year senior back Mackenzie Ellis both scored goals, locking in the victory.

With the win over the Buckeyes concluding the regular season, the Wolverines cap off one of the best regular seasons in Pankratz’s tenure as head coach. Taking everything they have learned this season, including their tenacious defense, Michigan will march forward into the Big Ten Tournament.

Their next opponent is Iowa, but the Wolverines have their sights set on earning an NCAA Tournament berth and winning the final game of the season. 

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