With only one minute left in regulation, all hope was just about lost.
People in the crowd started gathering their purses, Michigan looked defeated on the sideline and the hopes of a National Championship were slipping through the Wolverines’ fingers.
With 1:02 left in the game, though, a switch flipped. Senior forward Katie Anderson weaved her way through the Miami (OH) defenders and fired a shot at the goalie. After struggling to find the back of the goal all night, this time was different. The ball finally found the back of the goal and lost hope turned into exhilaration.
But that wasn’t all. Less than 10 seconds to go in regulation, the Wolverines found themselves within the RedHawks’ 25 once again. Trying to prevent a shot, one of the Miami defenders got too aggressive and committed a penalty. Sophomore midfielder Lora Clarke inbounded the ball, senior midfielder Sofia Southam set it up for herself and issued a firecracker to the right corner of the goal. Now, exaltation surged through the stadium.
The third-seeded Wolverines (16-4) defeated Miami (12-11), 3-2, on Friday in the NCAA Round of 16. The win was not short of heroics and nail biters.
“It’s one and done for everybody and everybody’s gonna bring their A-game,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “Miami’s a very strong team, their corners are excellent, and they executed them so it was everything we thought it was gonna be.”
Michigan had not been down by more than a goal all season, but found itself facing adversity early as the RedHawks scored two quick penalty corners on two attempts in the first quarter to go up 2-0.
After the first quarter, however, the Wolverines’ defense locked down and kept Miami out of the scoring column going forward. Michigan also outshot the RedHawks 23-6, not giving up a single shot to Miami in the second half.
“Everything comes from the backfield, so once we step up there, then everything comes together in the front line,” Anderson said.
Added Pancratz: “We started to double the ball a little bit more, and they have some very clever players on Miami’s team, and I think we were just a little bit late. We were playing a 1-v-1-v-1 as opposed to 1-v-2, so once we made that adjustment going the rest of the way down the stretch, it really helped us.”
Despite the strong defensive play, the Wolverines still needed to score. With a minute left in the game, Michigan pulled senior goalkeeper Anna Spieker for an extra offensive player.
“We weren’t gonna lose it,” Southam said. “We stayed composed, and we knew to do the basics: find open players, not trying to go 1-v-10 and not trying to save the day. We didn’t lose our heads.”
Scoring two goals in the final minute, Michigan showed that composure was the key to success. The Wolverines showed that it isn’t how you start, but how you finish. A new season begins once you hit the NCAA Tournament, and Michigan learned that quickly.