It would have been easy for Michigan to quit.
Even though the Michigan field hockey team’s six-game winning streak was snapped by its first loss this month, the 18th-ranked Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) didn’t let it influence the entire weekend. The 18th-ranked Wolverines mustered a weekend split as they lost to No. 9 Maryland on Friday, 2-1, and defeated Rutgers, 2-0, on Sunday.
“I think that (the weekend) was successful,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “I think we played very, very well against Maryland, and it was an important win for us (against Rutgers). I was really proud of the team for pulling it out.”
Michigan gained an early lead against the Terrapins (3-0, 8-3), as junior forward Sina Lampe knocked in a ball at 19:32 from sophomore midfielder Veerle Lubbers. But Maryland tied the game shortly thereafter, making the score 1-1 going into the second half.
The Terrapins scored again soon after the break on an odd play. A foul gave Maryland possession, but play resumed following the foul before the field was set.
“It was a frustrating goal,” said sophomore goalkeeper Sam Swenson. “After watching it on video, it was a bit controversial. But you still have to play to the whistle. It’s a shame, but things happen.”
Added Pankratz: “What I first told (the team) was that we had our chances to win the game and you can’t rely on the umpires, you have to do it yourselves. You have to control your own destiny and finish the chances you had.”
The Wolverines responded, coming out in an entirely different form against the Scarlet Knights (0-3, 5-4). Though Rutgers started pressuring Michigan with three shots in the first three minutes, the defense held out, allowing just those three shots in the entire first half.
The Wolverines had only one shot of their own in the first half, but it was the only one they needed. Freshman forward Lydia Sydnor was able to score her first career goal near the 20-minute mark.
Michigan kept the ball on the Scarlet Knights’ side of the pitch for much of the second half. Sydnor scored again two minutes into the period, this time off an assist from redshirt sophomore midfielder Casie Ammerman.
“Lydia’s been playing great,” Pankratz said. “She’s fit, she’s been working hard, she’s fast and she’s got a great attitude. To see her put it all together and score two really nice goals, I was proud of her. It’s a big boost for our team to have multiple people who are dangerous in the circle.”
Rutgers had an ideal chance to get on the board when freshman backfielder Maggie Bettez was given a yellow card, forcing Michigan to play a player down for five minutes. The Wolverines’ defense was unfazed, as it didn’t allow a single shot on goal during the penalty period.
The defense faced another test as the Scarlet Knights, desperate for a goal, went on a tear late in the second half with four penalty corners and shots. But Michigan’s defense held firm and cruised to a shutout, led by Swenson and the backfield.
“Our defense is very experienced and smart,” Pankratz said. “Our team has a lot of confidence with them back there.”
As the Wolverines displayed this weekend, one step back doesn’t keep them from taking another two forward. And with its stifling defense, Michigan may start replacing those minor steps with tremendous strides.