After having perhaps both their best and worst performances to date occur in back-to-back games, the No. 2 Michigan field hockey team (13-2 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) exits the final home weekend of the season with a sobering reminder — against the best teams in the country, even the tiniest mistake will be taken advantage of.
On Friday it was the Wolverines making the most of opposing mistakes as they defeated No. 3 Rutgers, 3-0. Despite an early push by the Scarlet Knights, Michigan quickly overpowered Rutgers’ defense and fired off 14 unanswered shots over the remaining course of the game.
The first goal for the Wolverines came by way of freshman midfielder Abby Tamer in the final minute of the second quarter, and was followed in the third and fourth quarters by goals from sophomore back Anouk Veen and senior midfielder Kathryn Peterson
“A goal right at the end of a half gives a lot of motivation,” Tamer said. “We go into the second half on a high, they come in having to claw back.”
Rutgers not only failed to provide a rebuttal to the offensive onslaught, they couldn’t even enter the scoring arch the second half. While such a performance would be expected against lower level competition, the fact it came against the No. 3 team in the country raised some eyebrows.
“We wanted to make a statement today,” senior goaltender Anna Spieker said. “We wanted to show everyone who we are after last weekend.”
Where the game against Rutgers served as a rebuttal against the previous weekend’s struggles, the game against No. 8 Maryland was a reminder of chronic frustrations.
From the beginning, the Terrapin defense stymied clear scoring chances for the Wolverines while making opportunities for themselves. Ten minutes into the game, Maryland forward Hope Rose sent a cross cage shot past Spieker, shocking the crowd and the Michigan bench.
“Maryland had some really good breakaway plays,” sophomore back Rosie Hope said. “When we’re trying to attack all game we’re vulnerable to giving those up.”
While senior midfielder Sofia Southam tied the game seven minutes into the third quarter, Maryland wrenched the lead back with a goal from midfielder Bibi Donraadt just five minutes later and held it for the rest of the game.
Although the Wolverines were granted eight corners in the game, none found the back of the net. Corner shot conversion has been a frequent weak spot in Michigan’s play, and one that Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz was adamant about fixing in practice this week.
“We have to execute on corners,” Pankratz said. “We absolutely have to. If we can’t convert a single corner, that’s the difference in the game”
After the loss against Maryland, Michigan is now on the bubble for an early round home bid in the NCAA Tournament. With the Final Four and Championship games in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines will look to add a few standout wins to the résumé in their final regular season game next week and in the Big Ten Tournament to spur another deep postseason run.
Daily sports writer David Woelkers can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @dawjr98