Anna Spieker and the No. 11 Michigan defense were in a tough spot.
With 13 minutes remaining and a one-goal lead on Friday, the sophomore goalkeeper faced three consecutive penalty corner attempts from No. 3 Connecticut (4-1). Spieker stayed focused, making two more saves to preserve the Wolverines’ lead, en route to a 3-2 victory over the Huskies.
“Anna’s an experienced player,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “We have enormous confidence in her being back there.”
Added Spieker: “It’s always a stressful situation going into it but I have full confidence in our corner defense that we’re going to do well.”
The Wolverines (3-2) opened the scoring five minutes into the second quarter. After a shot by sophomore midfielder Sofia Southam was saved, Michigan was awarded a penalty corner. Southam received the pass off of the corner and took a shot, which was deflected in by senior midfielder/forward Fay Keijer for her first goal of the season. The Wolverines tacked on another goal with 1:30 left in the half on junior midfielder Kayla Reed’s second goal of the season.
Halfway through the third quarter, Connecticut cut the lead to 2-1 with a top-shelf goal out of Spieker’s reach, giving the Huskies some momentum. They got another prime scoring chance with time expiring in the third. A high shot forced Spieker to make an impressive save, deflecting the shot and kicking it out from in front of the net.
After keeping Connecticut scoreless on the three consecutive corners, the Wolverines regained momentum and played well defensively, leading to more scoring opportunities. With just under five minutes left in the game, freshman forward Sarah Pyrtek took a one-timer off of a rebound and potted a much needed insurance goal, giving Michigan a 3-1 lead.
With a two-goal lead, the Wolverines played a more defensive-minded game. The Huskies had difficulty breaking through for a while, but in the last minute a cross got past Spieker, allowing an unmarked Connecticut player to score an easy goal.
“Unfortunate goal,” Spieker said. “We should’ve been there defensively probably a little better. That goal needs to be marked.”
Despite the goal, Michigan continued its strong defensive play when the Huskies threatened as time expired, giving them no space to get a shot off. The win gave the Wolverines their best win of the young 2019 season and a confidence booster going forward.
“I’m very excited about the win,” Pankratz said. “UConn is an excellent team and I just couldn’t be more proud of our team and how hard we’ve played defensively.
“Even though we’ve had a couple of losses early we just keep instilling that it’s a process and we’re trying to get better every day. We’re just trying to instill confidence in all of the players. I thought they played with that today beautifully.”
With Spieker and the rest of the Michigan’s defense playing at this caliber, the team looks poised to take the confidence that it gained from this game into the fast-approaching Big Ten season.