After the huddled Michigan field hockey offense broke apart, freshman forward Tina D’Anjolell jogged over to take the corner. The rest of the offense spread around the top of the arc — one player on the near side, three at the top and one on the far side. All throughout the game the Wolverines would pass the ball to the top of the circle on corners, but not this time.
D’Anjolell gave the ball to senior forward Emma Way at the near side, catching the Ball State defense off guard. Taking the open shot, Way slapped a shot low and hard to the far post, bouncing off the top of the goalkeeper’s foot and into the goal.
Way’s goal was the fifth of six in Michigan’s Sunday afternoon 6-0 route over an outmatched Cardinals team. The resounding victory, coupled with Friday night’s conference win over rival Michigan State, brings the Wolverines’ record to 11-5 (6-1 Big Ten).
The match on Friday, though, didn’t come as easily as the win did Sunday. The struggling Spartans (4-12, 0-7) managed to hold Michigan to only one goal late in the second half — even when the Wolverines dominated the game — leading to a close 1-0 victory over Michigan State.
“I thought we played really well, just the Michigan State goalkeeper was phenomenal in that match, which kept them in the game,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “But I thought our structure was good, our midfield play was good, I thought we had really outstanding shots on goal, and when you have a strong goalie sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
The Wolverines managed eight shots on goal compared to zero for the Spartans. Michigan also edged Michigan State in penalty corners by six to four.
Carrying their control over the game into Sunday, the Wolverines outclassed the visiting Ball State team in every way. Michigan had 20 shots on goal, the Cardinals had one. The Wolverines had 14 penalty corners, Ball State had one. The Cardinals had one moment in the 70-minute game where they flirted with the possibility of a goal, but it was quickly expelled by a capable Michigan defense. It was clear that the difference between the two games, though, was the Wolverine’s ability to finish.
“It’s always a goal to finish and I think the last couple of games we had we had a couple of issues with it,” said freshman forward Maya Gompers. “That’s something we’ve been working a lot in practice on. Obviously we did a lot better with that today and we had a lot of shots off — which is another one of our goals — so I think we did that pretty well today.”
Gompers, an Ann Arbor native, got her first career goal Sunday off a rebound from a penalty corner — a theme for Michigan. Three of the Wolverines’ six goals came from penalty corners, and most of their chances did, too.
“This year we’re doing something different, we’re kind of calling the corners based on what we see with their defense coming out,” said senior forward Emma Way. “Today we had a lot of new players coming in, so kind of figuring out where each of them were to go was crucial today, but we just have a plethora of options — we just choose one and go with it.”
Way scored her 15th and 16th goal Sunday, too, even as Michigan played every single player available — giving players like Gompers the opportunity to score her first career goal. Opportunities like that don’t come very often, but when they do, there is always a celebration by everyone involved with the team.
“I think being able to get everybody into the game, get some experience,” said Pankratz. “It’s always good to get the younger kids some more game experience so they can get sharp and be able to help us into the tournament. That was the best part. It was a nice team win.”
And as the Wolverines look forward to their next challenge — a game against Ohio State — and even further toward the tournament season, games like Sunday’s will not come often, sweetening the memories.