Anna Spieker has mastered staying collected under pressure.
As the clock began to count down in regulation on Friday, the sophomore goalkeeper saved a shot from No. 3 Connecticut’s senior forward Seva Boker. During the block a Michigan defender fouled resulting in a corner penalty — putting Spieker and the Wolverines’ defense to the test.
A series of consecutive corner penalties ensued as the No. 11 Michigan women’s field hockey team attempted to fend off the Huskies at the start of the fourth quarter (2-1).
“We talk about it a lot before the game,” Spieker said. “We have a specific kind of defensive structure going into the corner, so we study them. We know exactly who’s going to shoot. We anticipate what they’re going to do.”
Connecticut took its shot, and the Wolverines blocked it. Yet, this block came strings attached, tying it to another corner penalty for the Huskies.
“It’s always a stressful situation,” said Spieker. “But, I have full confidence in our corner defense.”
Connecticut again aimed for the goal and again fell short. Spieker, calm and collected, saved the shot. Though, in mirroring the first corner penalty’s play, the Wolverines allowed the Huskies another consecutive corner penalty.
“Anna’s an experienced player, and she’s smart and poised,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “We have enormous confidence in her being back there. We trust her.”
Despite this faith in Spieker, tensions in the stadium built with each corner penalty, as the probability of an impending goal increased.
For the third time, Connecticut readied itself to score, as the Wolverines again prepared their defense. The Huskies’ senior back Antonia Tiedtke carefully took her third shot. Spieker, living up to the trust placed in her, saved it. Connecticut collected the rebound quickly and impulsively took another shot at Spieker — missing wide.
“I am confident, but I do get nervous and jittery,” Spieker said. “I just try to flush it out and be confident in what I can do.”
This calm and collected attitude under pressure coupled with careful preparation gives Spieker her mastery over corner penalties, a game-winning skill for Michigan on Friday night. The Wolverines prevented the Huskies from scoring a goal that would have ultimately tied the game. Michigan won 3-2.
“I thought Anna played quite well today,” Pankratz said. “Our team’s defense was solid and organized.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of our team and how hard we’ve played defensively.”