The ball sailed across the field, ricocheting effortlessly between sticks.
The Wolverines drove the ball into the circle, sending it across the turf, towards senior midfielder Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort. Just as it looked like the momentum was starting to build towards a goal, the ball skidded through her legs and onto the stick of Iowa’s defender — another scoring opportunity missed.
The Wolverines’ offense stumbled on Sunday against Iowa, ending scoreless and losing, 1-0, in their last regular season game. Despite the lack of shots, the Hawkeyes hardly dominated. Possession was split and the Wolverines’ passing put them in scoring position frequently. They just couldn’t capitalize on opportunities.
“Field hockey is a game with finishing in the circle,” said senior midfielder Clare Brush. “Today, we did not finish in our penalty attack corners, and we also did not finish on our defensive corners.”
Added Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz: “I think Iowa played great defense against us and we had trouble penetrating the circle.”
When Michigan did get in the circle, it rarely got a clean shot off— registering just two shots on goal in the first half.
At the end of the second quarter, the Wolverines earned their first corner. They executed several passes, but the play developed too slowly, and suddenly, the momentum was gone. The shot went wide, hitting the side of the goal.
The second half didn’t get much better for the Wolverines, but they finally started shooting, racking up seven more shots before the end of the game. But it was too late. Their shots looked rushed and haphazard, landing wide of the goal each time.
They had two more corners, but couldn’t translate either into a goal. They also failed to take advantage of three penalty cards on Iowa. The Hawkeyes were down a player, and still, Michigan couldn’t make any headway. The offense just wasn’t in sync.
“A lot of it is being on the same page as a team,” Brush said. “There’s certain things we can do to kinda exploit that, and I think we could’ve done a better job of stretching and really taking advantage of fast free hits. But those are things we’re gonna keep working on and keep building on and learning every single game.”
This isn’t the first time Michigan’s offense has faltered. The Wolverines split last weekend’s games due to similar offensive hurdles. Michigan fell to Rutgers with more lackluster performances in the circle, but Sunday’s game against St. Joseph’s was a different story entirely. The Wolverines flipped a switch and the goals started coming.
“I think a big thing just carrying into our next postseason and the Big Ten Tournament is just being able to continue to build onto that possession,” Brush said. “Continue to work on that corner execution.”
It’s unclear whether they’ll be able to flip the switch again. It’s unclear whether they’ll have the time to make the necessary changes.
But, one thing is for sure: If Michigan wants a chance at success in the postseason that starts later this week, they’ll have to start shooting.