One goal was never going to be enough for the Michigan field hockey team in its NCAA tournament opener, but it’s fitting that the one goal came from junior forward Rachael Mack.
Mack’s score in the second half came in a losing effort, as the ninth-ranked Wolverines fell to No. 8 Old Dominion, 6-1, on Saturday at Francis E. Henry Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Michigan (4-2 Big Ten, 15-7 Overall) finished the season tied for second place in the Big Ten.
The Monarchs jumped out to a 4-0 lead by halftime, thanks to senior Maartje van Rijswijk, and never looked back. Her first goal came at 4:14 into the first half and cued a scoring rally that put the game away early.
Van Rijswijk, who had scored only nine goals all season, was responsible for all four of Old Dominion’s goals in the first half and added another score toward the end of the second half. Her five goals tied an NCAA Tournament record.
“We’ve had some games where we didn’t get the best start,” Mack said. “Normally we’ve come back from them this season.”
Mack led the Wolverines in goals with 18 and added seven assists this season.
“She was in the right spot at the right time,” said redshirt sophomore Leslie Smith of van Rijswijk’s impressive performance. “None of their goals were that pretty.”
The Wolverines were outshot 20-3, and Old Dominion had seven corners to Michigan’s one.
“They were just the stronger team today,” Smith said. “We’re a young team and we don’t really have a lot of NCAA (Tournament) experience.
Michigan’s season ended with consecutive losses to top-ten teams, the first coming against Penn State in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 4.
Prior to the Big Ten Tournament final, the Wolverines had rattled off eight consecutive victories, including wins versus No. 19 Michigan State, No. 18 Ohio State, and at No. 12 Iowa.
“We had a good season,” Mack said. “Especially having such a young team.”
Both Mack and Smith pointed to Michigan’s win over Ohio State on Oct. 14, and the victory over Michigan State that came two days before, as two of the season’s high points.
“It was alumni weekend, and we had so many fans there,” Smith said. “The cheerleaders, the band … it was incredible.”
At goalkeeper, redshirt junior Haley Jones made six saves before being replaced in the second half by redshirt freshman Adrianna Crovo, who made four saves of her own.
“We definitely have a young team,” Mack said. “And it’s very exciting to think that (almost) everybody on the squad is going to come back.”
Mack agreed, also citing the team’s youth and lack of postseason experience as a reason to be optimistic about Michigan’s prospects for 2013 and beyond.
The Wolverines’ lone loss is senior forward/midfielder Liesl Morris, who started every game and tied with Smith for the team lead with 12 assists.
“We need to improve our defensive game,” Mack said. “We can work on that during the offseason. Next season we want to get further.”