Saturday, Michigan played host to a gathering of some of the most talented field hockey seniors in the country to compete in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Senior Game. The exhibition was part of the NCAA Championship weekend in Ann Arbor.
The game featured some the best graduating players from Division I teams and provided a special moment for the athletes to round out their careers.
The players were divided into two teams — home and away — and were separated into the two squads for the first time just before the game began. The teams were organized to give players a chance to play with any teammates who had also been invited.
“I actually knew some of them (already),” said Michigan senior defender Lauren Thomas. “We had all the Big Ten girls on our team, apart from the two Maryland girls, so it was kind of nice. You’ve either played against them or been in the same circle as them for a while.”
Thomas was among those invited to play in the game and was an important part of the away team’s 3-1 victory.
As the game was designed to showcase the talent of the outgoing seniors, there was a more relaxed atmosphere surrounding the contest, allowing players to try roles they didn’t get to during the season. For her part, Thomas was able to play outside back and midfielder, despite her role as a central defender for the Wolverines. Thomas took advantage of her more forward position, creating multiple attacking opportunities for her teammates with her signature sharp passes.
“I definitely have a newfound respect for the side backs, because that was a lot of running,” Thomas said. “I got a good workout in there, and it was just kind of nice to try something different and mess around. It was good (that) it wasn’t as high stakes, and (it was) just really enjoyable and playing with a bunch of different girls was really nice, too.”
Thomas finished her Michigan career with 16 goals and 13 assists and started at least 20 games in each of her four seasons. Nine of Thomas’ goals came this season, when she led the Wolverines in scoring. In addition to earning an invitation to the senior game, Thomas earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-Big Ten First Team honors.
Fellow Wolverine defender Mackenzie Ellis was also invited to participate in the game but declined after suffering a broken thumb in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. The fifth-year senior was a team captain in her final year after starting her career as a walk-on. She also led the Wolverines in assists this past season with 12.
The offensive star of the game was Indiana’s Sydney Supica, who scored a hat trick for the away team. The Ann Arbor native and Pioneer High School alum was playing forward in the game, though she traditionally played as a defender for the Hoosiers.
“It feels awesome to be able to play where I grew up,” Supica said. “I had a huge home-field crowd that was able to come out, and my whole family was able to come out, so that was really awesome. To be able to have one more game five minutes from my house and to be able to play with a bunch of amazing seniors and just kind of finish my career with one big bang was incredible.”