Coming off a six-game win streak, including victories over three top-15 opponents, the Michigan field hockey team was looking to stay hot.
On a cold, rainy night at Ocker Field, Michigan (5-0 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) still shone, rolling past Rutgers (2-2, 8-5).
It took Michigan 15 minutes to finally score a goal, but that undersells how dominant the Wolverines were the entire game. When the ball was on Rutgers’ side of the field, it was rarely near the goal. The Scarlet Knights didn’t have a single shot, while Michigan had 24.
Sophomore forward Meg Dowthwaite, who ranks third in the Big Ten in goals per game, scored the Wolverines’ first goal when it deflected off the Rutgers goalie’s stick.
Michigan drew seven corners in the first half, including two that were essentially back-to-back. However, it struggled to convert those opportunities until the end of the first half.
In what was perhaps one of the more unpredictable goals of the season, junior defender Maggie Bettez took a corner and then tipped a rebound from fifth-year senior midfielder Esther de Leijer into the goal. Not only was it her first collegiate goal, it was her first shot on goal since her freshman season.
“I was in definitely the right place at the right time,” Bettez said, who took the corner in place of the normal inserter, junior forward Emma Way. “Our focus is usually keeping balls out of the net, but it was nice to switch things up today and be part of the offensive push.”
Three minutes into the second half, it was clear that Michigan wasn’t letting up, as Dowthwaite scored her second goal of the game. She now has 11 goals on the season, already surpassing her total from last season.
“Now that she’s a sophomore, (Meg’s) got a lot more confidence,” said coach Marcia Pankratz. “She’s taking the ball with a ton of speed, and you couple that with her polished skills, she’s (an) incredibly dangerous forward.”
The Wolverines also drew their first penalty stroke of the season Friday, which led to another goal scored by freshman midfielder Kayla Reed.
For Michigan’s final goal, another defender scored her first collegiate goal, as junior Regan Leavitt punched the ball into an open net with 17 minutes to go.
Another way the Wolverines took advantage in this game was through replay review. Unlike other sports, in field hockey, the players must call for a review, rather than the coach. The players jumped on those opportunities when they felt the referees had missed a call and got two extra penalty corners out of it.
“If they see it, they’re gonna call it,” Pankratz said. “I have full confidence in them to make the right decisions.”
Even after a dominating performance, Michigan still has its eye on improvement. The Wolverines had 10 penalty corners and only scored off one of them – and it was Bettez’s rebound after de Leijer’s original shot missed.
“We had a lot of opportunities in the attack circle, and polishing up our corner execution (is a priority),” Pankratz said.
Overall, it was another great performance from Michigan, which leads the Big Ten in goals and assists.
“At this point in the season, we’re focusing on the minute details, and we want to break the game into moments as opposed to end results,” Bettez said. “I was really happy with each moment of the game.”