Nine months after its loss in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last year, the Michigan field hockey team began its season searching for another even further run.
The first action came this weekend with back-to-back exhibitions on Saturday and Sunday against Michigan State and Toronto, respectively. Despite dropping their annual match against Michigan State 5-3, the Wolverines rebounded effectively with a decisive 5-0 win over Toronto.
“We had some personnel changes this year due to graduating seniors from last year,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “We used these two exhibition matches to get more organized.”
Due to two early goals, the Spartans stopped an onslaught of shots and barely maintained a 2-1 lead going into the second half. Then, Michigan State quickly turned around its sluggish offense by scoring three goals in a row. All three were products of penalty corners.
“With a new defense this year, we were a bit disorganized and got frantic,” said senior midfielder and captain Eliza Stein. “It was a good wakeup call — we need to figure those things out now.”
The Wolverines mustered one last surge as senior forward Sina Lampe and sophomore midfielder Leah Cardarelli each scored. But the Spartans remained on top with a 5-3 win.
The next day, though, Michigan faced off against the Toronto Varsity Blues and managed to display its offensive firepower. Within the first two minutes of the match, Lampe netted the first of what would be five goals.
“We had a lot more communication today, and we were confident,” Lampe said. “Everything worked well — our defense communicated well and got the ball up the field quickly.”
The Wolverines held a majority of the possession and kept the ball on the offensive half of the field, allowing for the young defense to swap players in and out. At half, Michigan led the match 4-0, outshooting the Varsity Blues 12-1.
Freshman midfielder Meg Dowthwaite scored the Wolverines’ final goal of the day with a backhanded shot from the top of the circle. Michigan would go on to win 5-0, advancing on a high note into the regular season.
All five of Michigan’s goals on Sunday came from five different players. The offense clearly is in sync, but the upcoming challenge will be bridging the gap between older and newer players by improving chemistry.
“We will prepare tactics to play against both North Carolina and Wake Forest because they play different styles,” Pankratz said.
The Wolverines have a chance to avenge their quarterfinal loss in the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina next Saturday in their season opener. They face off against Wake Forest the next day.