For the No. 2 Michigan field hockey team (12-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten), a single stroke of bad luck in its Friday game against No. 1 Iowa (15-0, 6-0) led to a shootout defeat and put a repeat of the Wolverines’ 2020 Big Ten regular season title in jeopardy.
After 60 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes left the game at 1-1, senior goalkeeper Anna Spieker faced down Hawkeye midfielder Lokke Stribos in the fourth of five shootout shots. As Spieker lunged forward, however, a slight trip against the turf staggered the goalkeeper, and Stribos fired an undefended shot into the back of the cage.
While Wolverine senior midfielder Kathryn Peterson’s goal kept the shootout alive, the rare miscue from Spieker, who had blocked all but one shot she faced in regulation and both overtimes, ultimately proved fatal. On Iowa’s fifth and final shot, forward Sofie Stribos scored to end the game.
“Despite the trip-up, Anna played her heart out,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “It was just a freak accident that came at an unfortunate moment.”
The drawn out game against the Hawkeyes closely mirrored the Wolverines’ matchup against No. 6 Northwestern last week, which went deep into second overtime before Michigan pulled the victory. Both games saw the opposing team take the Wolverines to the brink through a suffocating offensive pressure.
While Michigan found enough shots to win against the Wildcats, Iowa’s defensive backs were able to stifle the Wolverines from entering the shooting circle and in turn prevented valuable penalty corner opportunities. While Michigan has averaged eight corners per game this season, against the Hawkeyes they were only awarded two.
“Speed and hustle is our biggest strength in getting corners, and we just didn’t use that to press the issue like we have the rest of this season” fifth year midfielder Halle O’Neill said.
Despite the dearth of chances, the Wolverines opened the scoring off the stick of Peterson, who recovered her own corner insertion and scored early in the third quarter.
Michigan held the lead until a yellow card on senior forward Katie Anderson and the pulling of Iowa goalkeeper Grace McGuire left the Wolverines at a two player disadvantage for much of the fourth quarter. In the 52nd minute, Hawkeye defender Anthe Nijziel blistered a shot past Spieker to tie the game.
From there, the game remained a stalemate until the shootout.
“It was about as close a game as you can get in hockey, we just played too tentative when it counted most,” Pankratz said. “They didn’t get the best of us, we got the best of ourselves.”
Michigan had little time to digest the loss, as they traveled to Bloomington Sunday to face Indiana (8-8, 2-5). Exhaustion from Friday’s marathon of a game showed in the team’s play early, as the Hoosiers quickly ran out to a surprising 2-0 lead over the Wolverines to end the first quarter. For the first time all season, Michigan found itself down by more than a goal.
To Pankratz, that was unacceptable;
“(Pankratz) ripped into us between quarters,” O’Neill said. “We were super sluggish in the first quarter, and she let us know it. It put us back into the gear we want to be, and really need to be playing at.”
Fired up by their coach’s quarter-break talk, the Wolverines sprinted out to an aggressive start in the second quarter, scoring twice in the first three minutes: a penalty corner conversion by sophomore midfielder Anouk Veen just 34 seconds into the quarter, and a tip-in by freshman midfielder Abby Tamer off a shot originally made by O’Neill 90 seconds later.
From there, the momentum was cemented in Michigan’s favor, as Peterson, senior midfielder Sofia Southam and sophomore midfielder Sarah Pyrtek added goals to finish Michigan’s scoring at five goals for the day.
Indiana, in contrast, found only one more goal following the first quarter’s scoring barrage, via a corner with 43 seconds left in the game. By that point, however, the result had long been decided.
“We finished the game with an energy we should’ve started with,” O’Neill said. “We showed we can recover from our mistakes.”
With the weekend’s results, Michigan will need to win out and hope for the Hawkeyes to drop their final game against Northwestern to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. Despite not being in control of their own destiny, however, the Wolverines won’t keep too close an eye on Iowa’s scoreboard.
“We can’t worry about what Iowa is doing,” Pankratz said. “All we can do is play our style and play it well.”
Daily sports writer David Woelkers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @dawjr98