Play while tired.

For the Michigan women’s field hockey team, this mantra shapes everything. Early in the season, the Wolverines are trying to create their identity — an identity that puts playing through fatigue and adversity at the forefront. From quick, explosive starts to high-effort plays late in matches, intensity is the name of the game.

No. 7 Michigan (1-1) showcased this mindset Sunday during a 3-0 victory over No. 10 Wake Forest (0-2). 

From the first minute, the Wolverines’ high-effort mentality made its mark. Michigan worked hard to suffocate the Demon Deacons’ elusive style of play from the outset. These efforts paid off early and often, as the Wolverines scored on two corner shots in the first half.

For Michigan, the recipe was simple. Draw a corner. Have sophomore midfielder Kathryn Peterson smack the ball to the top of the circle. Line up a shot for senior forward Meg Dowthwaite. Find the back of the cage. Repeat.

This strategy worked twice in the first half for the Wolverines who jumped out to a commanding 2-0 lead at the half. Scoring successfully off corner shots seems to be a staple of the offense early in the season, as Michigan scored twice off them against No. 1 North Carolina on Friday, as well.

But this hasn’t always been the case for the Wolverines who struggled mightily to capitalize on corner shots last season. This year, the corners are coming with a new mindset and with them, much-needed offensive production.

“Last year, our corners were not great to say the least,” Peterson said. “This year, it’s a new mentality. This year we all know we have so much improvement to do there, that this year coming into these games, they’re just clicking.”

The intensity didn’t stop at just drawing corners. The lone goal in the second half came courtesy of Peterson, who scored off a heater that rocketed off the goalkeeper’s gloves and over her head to cross the goal line. 

The beatdown marked a statement win for the Wolverines. After losing 4-2 against the Tar Heels in the first game of the season, Michigan wanted to right the ship and start the year off with a bang. The Wolverines needed to show that they could not only play with, but also beat, elite competition.

“(The win was) huge,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “I mean to be 1-1 instead of 0-2, but they’re both top-five teams, and most importantly this is a process, right? We’re trying to grow and get better and challenge ourselves every time and see where we are, and I feel really great about it.”

From here, the name of the game for the Wolverines is to maintain that intensity through a long season. They’ve proven they can do it through a game and come out the other side victorious, cutting off passing lanes and intercepting balls deep into the fourth quarter. Carrying on their identity for the rest of the season will now be the team’s focus. For now, the most it can do is hammer the message of playing while tired and hope the rest takes care of itself.

“Marcia says that every single day,” Dowthwaite said. “The best players are playing while tired, you’re not going to be not tired when you’re playing. You got to be able to capitalize and score and play well when you’re tired, so we say that everyday.”

 

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