Six minutes into the first quarter, redshirt sophomore midfielder Emma Tamer received a penalty corner in front of goal, fired a shot off a defender’s stick and earned the Wolverines their first goal of the game.
Penalty corners provided crucial opportunities that the Michigan field hockey team (12-3 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) needed to defeat Penn State (4-10, 3-3), 3-1, on Sunday, as all three goals originated from corners. From the start, it was evident that Michigan was in control of its turf due to its strong defensive pressure, which was central to the midfield maintaining possession of the ball.
“I think we’ve actually taken some lessons from other teams that we have played,” said junior midfielder Kayla Reed, who assisted the game’s final goal. “We’re kind of using the strengths from different teams and trying to connect it into our game. I think that a games’ momentum really comes from defense.”
The Wolverines’ first shot of the game from senior forward Fay Keijer was saved by Nittany Lions’ goalie Brie Barraco. Michigan earned a penalty corner in the same minute, resulting in the first goal of the game and putting the Wolverines up, 1-0.
The momentum continued into the second quarter as Michigan scored again two minutes in. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Emma Tamer — who is now tied as the team’s leading scorer — scored both of the goals off of penalty corner kick plays. Both goals were assisted by senior midfielder Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort and sophomore midfielder Kathryn Peterson, who had a goal of her own later in the fourth quarter.
Michigan outshot Penn State, 13-3, as well as out-cornered them with six corners, half of which resulted in goals. Peterson took five of the six corners.
“We spend a lot of time on corners,” Peterson said. “But I think lately we’ve been really honing in on our key plays and I think there is a lot of confidence around the play when we call it. Everyone is sure enough of themselves. It’s kind of just like clockwork, we trust that it is going to happen.”
After two Michigan shots by Peterson and Feijer, respectively. Penn State’s first shot attempt came six minutes into the third quarter. Less than 30 seconds later, Penn State’s second direct shot off a penalty corner resulted in its first goal of the game. The Wolverines’ midfield responded quickly with a shot by Tamer as well as a shot by sophomore Sofia Southam, both falling just short of a goal.
In the final quarter, Peterson was able to get another goal off a penalty corner by knocking a high tip out of the air, adding further insurance to Michigan’s eventual victory.
“It’s a set piece so we spend a lot of time perfecting them,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “We’ve got a lot of different plays so we’ll use certain plays against certain teams, depending on what they give us on defense. They executed them beautifully today so I’m proud of the team for that.”
The Wolverines celebrated an impressive win on Friday when they upset No. 2 Maryland, marking Pankratz’s 300th career win. Sunday’s victory added to the momentum and marks a sixth straight win.
“We’re trying to set ourselves up to make a run through the tournaments, both Big Ten and NCAAs,” Pankratz said. “I think we are trying to take each play — you got to make a play and win it and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job at that.”