The No. 11 Michigan field hockey team flexed its muscles Sunday against in-state rival Michigan State.
The Wolverines’ eighth consecutive victory was the result of an all-around team effort, as their unrelenting offense tallied five goals, defeating the Spartans, 5-0, in East Lansing.
Michigan improved its record to 14-3 overall and was especially motivated to come out on top in this year’s matchup with Michigan State.
“The last couple years, they’ve had our number,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “It was nice for our team to go out there and play so exceptionally well today to get such a solid win.”
Fifth-year senior back Mackenzie Ellis led the Wolverines, compiling one goal and two assists. She remembers Michigan’s heartbreak last year when it lost to an underdog Michigan State team. The loss was especially debilitating, as it cost the Wolverines a shot at a Big Ten championship.
“That was really kind of a driving factor for us in this game,” Ellis said. “We really looked at this as a rivalry game.”
Ellis’ goal was the first of the game, as she was able to deposit a penalty stroke past the Spartan goalkeeper. The Wolverines (6-1 Big Ten, 14-3 overall) weren’t done there, as they proceeded to pick up four more goals from four different players en route to a 5-0 victory. The diversity of goal scorers is an impressive feat, and personifies the attitude that Pankratz tries to instill in her team.
“We’ve been working hard all season at that,” Pankratz said. “We’re very versatile, and we have a lot of depth everywhere.”
On the other side of the field, Michigan’s shutdown defense was driven by strong play from sophomore goalkeeper Sam Swenson.
“She has had an incredible season,” Pankratz said, calling Swenson “really just the best goalkeeper, I think, in the Big Ten.”
With a five-goal lead and 10 minutes to go in the game, Pankratz substituted junior goalkeeper Chris Lueb into the game for Swenson. Lueb faced two shots on goal, but was able to keep Michigan State (2-6, 5-12) from capitalizing.
“(Lueb) had to make some really good saves today.” Pankratz said. “She did a great job preserving the shutout today.”
The Wolverines will have one more regular-season bout Oct. 31 at home against Ohio State before they head to Bloomington to play in the Big Ten Tournament. But if Michigan can continue its recent successes, getting contributions from all parts of the field, there is definite reason for optimism in the Wolverines’ future.
“We’re finally settling in and working very well together as a team,” Ellis said. “We’re kind of figuring out how each other plays within the rest of the team.”