With less than a minute remaining, the No. 7 Michigan women’s field hockey team (2-2) was in a pinch.
Defending a one-score lead, the Wolverines defense watched a California player bring the ball just outside the Wolverines’ goal in a last-ditch effort to score. But after an errant pass led to a scramble for the ball, Michigan senior Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort managed to scoop up the ball and take it out from the goal, capping off the team’s road weekend with a win.
“I was proud of our team, at how hard they fought, especially in the second half,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “… I think (junior back) Halle O’Neill’s been playing amazing defense; she’s really been our field general and just the foundation of the backfield, and really proud of her play. She’s been playing really inspired field hockey.”
But the Wolverines faced a heartbreaker of their own on Friday in Palo Alto against No. 21 Stanford. Michigan started with a two-score lead following a goal by sophomore forward Tina D’Angolell early in the second half. That advantage soon collapsed, though, when Stanford’s Corinne Zanolli scored twice in just five minutes to tie the game.
The score remained tied through two overtime periods, eventually going to a shootout competition. The Wolverines looked to have the game in the bag after the Cardinal failed to score on their first three out of five attempts, while Michigan had scored on its first two. But the Wolverines fell apart thereafter, failing their next three attempts while Stanford rallied to tie the shootout. In the next round, Michigan again was denied, and Zanolli scored to win the upset for the Cardinal.
“It was a long, hard-fought game,” Pankratz said. “I think our team’s really resilient, so they’re positive and supportive of each other and just moving forward to learn and grow and get better.”
Sunday’s win over the Bears brought a gratifying end to a weekend that was bitter at first for the Wolverines. Michigan was able to protect its lead, O’Neill was a standout on defense and freshman Sarah Pyrtek secured the win late in the game by scoring off a rebound for her first collegiate goal.
Pankratz indicated that going forward the team would look to improve one-on-one defense and find combinations with good chemistry on the field, as well as focus on recovery following a demanding road trip — one that tested the resolve of her team.
“We’re still growing, it’s a process,” Pankratz said. “We’re getting better every day. I think we can always get better at everything, like any team.”