An hour of fiercely contested loose balls, multiple green and yellow cards and excellent goalkeeping wasn’t enough to decide Friday’s close game between Ohio State and Michigan. It felt like a game asking to end as chippy as it started.
Eight minutes into overtime, senior forward Meg Dowthwaite obliged, scoring her sixth goal of the season. She cleaned up a rebound that dribbled through the pads of Buckeye goalkeeper Aaliyah Hernandez to give the Michigan field hockey team (9-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) its fourth win over Ohio State (6-5, 1-3) in three years, its third in overtime against its rival during the same span. The goal was neither the result of a planned set play nor aesthetically pleasing, but it secured the 2-1 victory and extended the Buckeyes’ winless streak against Michigan that stretches back to 2011.
From the start, it looked like whichever team did the best job maintaining possession would control the game. For the entirety of the first quarter, that team was not the Wolverines. Michigan spent much of the first quarter hemmed into its own end of the field, allowing Ohio State time to set up offensive possessions and nearly score the game’s first goal.
“I think in the first quarter we were a bit tentative,” said coach Marcia Pankratz. “We came out a little nervous, so we held onto the ball a little too long. We were just a little bit — we weren’t very aggressive in going north-south.”
After a few simple adjustments in the break between quarters, the Wolverines got themselves back to the basics that have made them successful thus far this season.
“I think we just really went back to doing the simple and seeing the simple pass,” said redshirt sophomore midfielder Emma Tamer. “Instead of holding onto the ball, which I think we did a little bit too much in the first quarter, we just released the ball sooner and just trusted our teammates and got back to that small game.”
It didn’t take long after the break, though, for Michigan’s problems to take on a different form. The Wolverines found themselves dominating play but unable to break the scoreless tie they fought to preserve while on their heels in the first quarter.
The second, third, and fourth quarters saw Michigan take 18 shots to the Buckeyes’ two, but consistent play by Ohio State goalkeeper Aaliyah Hernandez prevented the Wolverines from breaking through. Even after they attempted nine penalty corners, the score remained knotted at zero, something Dowthwaite credits to the Buckeyes’ strategy on such plays.
“They changed from a defensive 3-1 to a 2-2, depending on who was at the top, and I think that was quite difficult,” Dowthwaite said. “… Their goalie had a fantastic game. They were just very tight and really narrow. And they just came out with that every time.”
On the 10th corner, Pankratz sent out Tamer to take the shot off of the set piece instead of junior back Halle O’Neill, who had been shooting them for the first three quarters. It was a decision Pankratz made based on recent performance in practice and it paid off immediately, as Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the game’s 50th minute on Tamer’s laser-like strike into the lower right corner.
Just 75 seconds later, the Wolverines found themselves right back where they had spent the majority of the game, in a position of on-field dominance without a lead to show for it. Ohio State’s Mackenzie Allessie, a player Michigan had planned on giving special attention in order to defend more closely, evaded several Wolverine defenders and scored.
“Mackenzie Allessie is a special player,” Pankratz said. “She’s on our U.S. (national) team and she’s a clever player, and she just got free and did her thing. We tried to neutralize her all game and it’s not easy. A special player like that is gonna break free every once in a while and make a clever play, and she did.”
And so, after out-shooting and out-possessing the Buckeyes the whole afternoon, overtime was necessary.
After eight minutes of Michigan scoring chances, including two saves that brought Hernandez’s total to 13, the Wolverines finally captured a win in Columbus with Dowthwaite’s goal.
Despite conceding its first regulation goal in almost a month, Michigan once again showed its commitment to team defense and possession-controlling play. An effective press, on-field communication and all-out effort have contributed to the team’s recent success.
“I think every 50/50 ball has our name on it,” Tamer said.
Michigan played by a successful — however familiar — ethos and as a result added to a win streak over their biggest rival.