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The first goal modeled how the rest of the game would flow: A second consecutive corner played out to the top of the circle, where freshman midfielder Anouk Veen waited for the insert. Her shot hopped out to the side — a mishit — but the ball fortuitously found the stick of junior forward Katie Anderson, who stared down an open channel toward the goal.

Her shot bounced through that channel and past Indiana’s goalie to put the Wolverines on the board just two and a half minutes in.

Born through the constant pressure that the Michigan field hockey team (1-0 Big Ten) placed on the Hoosiers (0-3) on its way to a 2-1 win, that first goal gave the Wolverines the early confidence they needed to get its season started.

“It did set a really good tone,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We actually talked about that specifically, to come out hard, set a good tone at home, and I think our team plays better confident having come out with a fast start.”

Early on, the game had the makings of a dominant performance and easy victory, with chances and near-chances aplenty. 

Michigan suffocated Indiana throughout the first quarter, with the ball only passing into the Wolverines’ half when passed back to a teammate. Passing angles were cut down by a rapid press, and whenever Michigan lost the ball, only one or two seconds passed before it regained possession.

Forty-five seconds into the second quarter, it looked like the game would be put to bed. Junior midfielder Kathryn Peterson inserted the fourth penalty corner of the game to the top of the circle, Veen once again being the target. This time, her shot launched through the traffic and tipped off senior midfielder Kayla Reed’s stick into the net.

“We set a good tone, put a lot of pressure on them when they had the ball to keep the heads down,” Pankratz said.

Added Reed: “It’s important when you play a team like (Indiana) to control the tempo which I think at times we did really well, but it was also quite hard because as the game went on the turf got drier, which makes passing, stick work and trapping a whole lot — goes up another level. It’s quite difficult so that was quite hard to control in this game, but I think for the most part we did control this game and this tempo.”

As the game went on, things did shift for the Wolverines as the Hoosiers worked themselves back into the game, stringing two, three passes together and beginning to mount threats.

Then, just as Michigan did at the start of the quarter, Indiana won a penalty corner with 50 seconds left in the half. A shot from the top thudded off freshman goalkeeper Gillian Dumont’s pad and slowly dribbled in front of the goal, where the corner taker — Emma Martin — awaited, unmarked.

The Wolverines went into the half up 2-1, having dominated for all but one minute, and yet only one goal up.

At the end of 60 minutes, the score was no different but not for lack of chances. Michigan had 14 corner opportunities — six in the third quarter — yet only converted on two of them. It retained its stranglehold on the match, but shots that deflected off the crossbar, or missed the net entirely, prevented a comfortable win.

“We’re always trying to get corners and getting 14 corners is just great,” Pankratz said. “Because of the field conditions we weren’t able to actually do the set pieces that we practiced, so we had to kind of improvise on the fly. It takes the offense a little bit longer to get the timing down as the season goes along so those will get better and better as we go along.”

The Wolverines dominated one of the Big Ten’s lower-tier programs in its season opener, despite dry turf and missing a plethora of chances, even with four freshman starters. While their defense was rarely tested with pressure, their offense still struggled to finish, missing opportunities at the goal but securing, at least, a win to get their feet under themselves.

But against the Hoosiers, that was enough. 

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