In the last five games, the No. 10 Michigan field hockey team has allowed just two goals. With the defense completely in sync, the Wolverines continued to roll in their latest win against Iowa.
Michigan (9-4 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) allowed just three shot attempts to the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes (10-5, 3-4) en route to a commanding 2-0 win on Sunday, its second consecutive shutout.
“Our bread and butter as (Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz) likes to say is our press,” graduate forward Tina D’Anjolell, the game-winning goal scorer, said. “We knew that if we pressed them hard and got their heads down we could make them make mistakes and take the ball.”
During the game, the Wolverine defense wasn’t just locking down in the defensive zone. It was also aggressive in the offensive zone when called upon to press attempted breakouts by Iowa.
With Wolverine forwards closing in, Hawkeye defenders had no time to look for a pass and instead were forced to move the ball to open field where it usually ended up on an opposing stick. Even when Iowa was able to get by this press, it had very little speed as it tried to get through the suffocating coverage of Michigan’s midfielders and defenders.
“It all starts from the communication from the back all the way to the front,” junior midfielder Lora Clarke said. “That’s how we were able to successfully press them for the whole game.”
With all the Wolverines in tune with each other, the Hawkeyes struggled to find any sort of sustained offensive possession.
The few times that Iowa was able to break the cooperative Michigan press, fifth-year goalkeeper Anna Speiker stopped every shot she faced.
With everyone from the forwards to the goalie contributing to the shutout, Michigan remained in control of the game. But even with the lead, the Wolverines did not go into cruise control.
“A theme that we’ve been working on now since we’ve started to finally put goals in is playing a full 60 minutes,” Clarke said. “You obviously can’t win a game if you don’t play defense and you don’t play the full 60.”
By continuing to apply pressure to the Hawkeyes all 60 minutes, Michigan finished the fourth period without allowing Iowa a single chance at getting an equalizer. This mentality is what led to the insurance goal provided by Clarke in that final frame. Fittingly, this goal came off one of the many turnovers forced by a successful press from the Wolverine forwards.
“We wanted to play to win and not play to not lose,” said Pankratz. “We wanted to stay aggressive.”
In being able to shut down the Hawkeyes it shows that Michigan wasn’t just beating up on bottom feeders. Coming into the game, the Wolverines were 0-4 against teams ranked in the top 10.
With the defense firing on all cylinders and getting contributions from all parts of the lineup, the Wolverines look to keep their shutout and win streak alive as they continue to make their way down the stretch.