The small, yellow ball soared from stick to stick as senior Bronwyn Shields connected with her teammate, who sent that small, yellow ball to the back of the net.
The horn sounded, the crowd cheered and the two embraced as the Michigan women’s lacrosse team increased its lead to 10.
More importantly, however, was the emotion from freshman Caroline Cullinan, who had just scored her second career goal with the Wolverines. She didn’t see the field for the Dartmouth game that went into double overtime on Feb. 17, or for either Big Ten matchup — arguably Michigan’s three biggest games of the year. But she had just put her team back into a 10-goal lead as the clock ran down with 4:43 left to play.
The support, the cheers, the emphatic goal all served as a big reminder.
This is why you play.
With the help of Cullinan’s goal — in addition to goals from senior Adriana Pendino, freshman Erin Garvey, juniors Catherine Granito, Molly Garrett, Lilly Grass and Nadine Stewart and hat tricks from sophomores Erin Daly and Maggie Kane — Michigan topped Niagara (3-6), 16-5.
The Wolverines held a convincing lead through the whole game with the help of key saves from within the net, despite numerous fouls and yellow cards. As the Purple Eagles scored three goals within the last 20 minutes of play to push itself out from the running clock rule, Michigan’s defense upped the ante and the Wolverines scored three statement goals to close out the game.
The eighth-ranked Wolverines improved to 12-0 on the season, growing the nation’s longest winning streak of 14, dating back to Apr. 21.
Michigan is one of three Division I teams that remain unbeaten, which puts them in the company of No. 1 Boston and No. 2 Maryland. As a new varsity sport, only in its sixth season, Michigan women’s lacrosse is now on the map and a force to be reckoned with.
“Winning talks,” said Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen. “Winning gets attention. Obviously being 12-0, I think it’s the best record in the country right now, and I think that says enough. This is obviously the best season we’ve had, and people are paying attention to that.”
The Wolverines led, 6-0, just 10 minutes into the game and finished the half up 9-1. This allowed for players who don’t usually see as much playing time, like Cullinan, or sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Weissman, to see the field and let their hard work come to fruition.
“I think that those same players are the players that either push us in practice as starters playing the scout team, or just they’re competing with us and pushing us to do our best each and every day,” said senior starting goalkeeper Mira Shane. “So, to see them out on the field, you know, that’s the reason why you play. I think sports are great, but in the long run … for them to get time, and to have fun, and to get to play the game that we all love, I don’t think there’s anything better than that.
“Except winning, of course.”