Junior forward Emma Way is no stranger to netting game-winning shots. In fact, she’s no stranger to scoring game-winning goals against rival Ohio State either, having scored the go-ahead goal against the Buckeyes her freshman year during the regular season finale.
On Friday, Way and the Michigan field hockey team (3-0 Big Ten, 7-2 overall) shocked Ohio State (0-3, 4-5), again scoring the game-winning goal with just 20 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Wolverines a 1-0 victory.
Over the course of her Michigan career, Way has managed to score or assist on an astounding six game-winning goals, netting five of them herself. As a freshman, Way scored or assisted on two overtime goals in the Big Ten Tournament, marking the beginning of her game-winning tendencies. From then on, she has not only provided the Wolverines with a clutch X-factor, but has contributed a steady offensive effort as well, finishing last season with six goals and four assists. Against the Buckeyes, Way managed to connect despite Michigan’s offensive struggles throughout the match.
“The game was out of character for us,” said fifth-year forward Carly Bennett. “We weren’t as aggressive as we had been, but we luckily ended up winning.”
The Wolverines definitely looked more in character offensively Sunday, decisively beating No. 3 Penn State (2-1, 8-2), 3-0. Bennett, a captain for Michigan, relied on her work rate to set the tone when other elements weren’t clicking for the Wolverines.
“I just always give 100 percent effort,” Bennett said. “I think everyone sees that and steps up. I actually also had a word with (sophomore forward) Meg Dowthwaite after the Ohio State game. I told her that we needed her to step up.”
And that’s exactly what Dowthwaite did. Scoring once in the match against the Nittany Lions, Dowthwaite was instrumental in the Michigan’s statement win against Penn State. The Wolverines’ game plan has consistently been to score early and often, with success coming when Michigan can effectively run its offense in the circle — a feat the Wolverines achieved Sunday.
“We just had great team cohesion,” said senior goalkeeper Sam Swenson. “We followed the game plan well and our transitions were sharp — everyone on the team just plays really well together.”
On the other side of the field, Michigan has played tremendous defense, as it has maintained shutouts in its past five contests. This weekend’s matchups cemented the team’s stellar defensive reputation as Swenson had eight saves against Ohio State and seven saves against Penn State.
“Sam Swenson was huge today,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “She made some huge saves. The whole team was great defensively and we shut them down today.”
The defense has shaped up to be the anchor for the Wolverines. Regardless of how well the offense has been performing, Swenson and her teammates consistently shut their opponents down and kept Michigan competitive at any time during a match, placing itself among the country’s most elite field hockey teams.
“This is what we practice,” Bennett said. “We need to forget about how we played in the past and just come out and do our jobs.” Against the Buckeyes, they did just that. The defense bought time, then Way repaid them for it.