Within less than five minutes of play, the No. 7 Michigan field hockey team scored on its second corner of the game—the second of fifteen offensive corners in its shutout against Cornell.
On Sunday, the Wolverines’ ability to convert on corners proved to be the difference that led them to a win. They ran a corner play on average every four minutes. On Friday against No. 6 Penn State, they had 10 offensive corners but lost the game 2-1. And last week, they were unable to score on three corner plays in the final three minutes of their match against Louisville, which ultimately cost them the game.
Against the Big Red, however, Michigan executed, with two of its three goals coming from corner plays.
“It definitely feels a lot better to finally be putting some of them in,” sophomore midfielder Abby Tamer said. “We definitely have room to go, with fifteen (corners) we should still be scoring a little bit more, but it’s something we’re going to keep focusing on and keep perfecting.”
On the Wolverines’ second corner, junior midfielder Lora Clarke sent the ball in and tipped a reverse shot from Tamer. As an insert, the pressure of every corner falls on Clarke, because if her initial pass isn’t accurate or fast enough, the defense will shut down the play before it ever begins.
“You don’t want to mess it up and go two inches to the left or two inches to the right,” Clarke said. “It does really matter. It needs to be really precise.”
For all 15 corners, Clarke did exactly that. Despite only scoring on two of the corners, the Wolverines were able to get a shot off on each of them. Ultimately, they outshot the Big Red, 31-4.
Cornell, meanwhile, had two offensive corners, and of their four shots on goal, three of them went just wide of the cage.
The Wolverines earned their sixth corner and their second goal in the second quarter, scored by senior midfielder Sarah Pyrtek. An inability to take advantage of Penn State’s defensive mistakes and execute on corner penalties held Michigan back on Friday, but on Sunday, this was clearly not the case.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of corners,” Clarke said. “So I think that the floodgates are going to start opening soon and the goals will start popping in and getting the bounces we need.”
This week is the perfect opportunity for those floodgates to open, as the Wolverines head into the rest of Big Ten play and two road games. This offensive shift came at the right time for the team.
While Michigan was thrilled to find more success converting corner opportunities against Cornell, two goals off of 15 corners is not enough to satisfy the Wolverines.
In conference play, Michigan is focused on one thing.
“Finishing,” Tamer said. “Finishing and corners.”