On the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 University of Michigan field hockey team’s national title, the 14th-ranked Wolverines defeated No. 12 Iowa for the third-straight time with a 2-0 shutout on Saturday. The 2001 champions were cheering from the stands.

“Having them there was awesome,” said senior midfielder Bryn Brian. “They pumped all of us up to go to that next level, be better players, and be a better team.”

Coming off of a 2010 Big Ten championship, Michigan has its sights set on returning to the 2001 team’s form.

“The year that Michigan won the national championship title, they expected to make it to the final,” said fifth-year senior goalkeeper Christi Barwick. “This year, we are trying to bring the team back to having those high expectations.”

With Barwick as goalie, and Brian and co-captain fifth-year senior Elieen Brandes returning from last year’s team to lead a strong defense, the Wolverines have an 8-3 this season and look to add to their shutout streak.

“We can’t let last year’s win get into our head because everyone is going to be gunning for you,” Barwick said. “You can have your rings, but you can’t bring the rings onto the field. This is a new year and a new team.”

The Wolverines recorded their fourth shutout of the season at last Saturday’s Big Ten home opener, with a 11-5 shot advantage. Backfielder Eileen Brandes attributed the team’s success this season to the elevation of their defense.

“Our midfielders intercept every ball that comes near them,” Brandes said. “Our forwards are also playing defense a lot better as well. It’s huge. Our communication is so much better than it has been in the past.”

The team’s communication has helped Barwick to be 5-1 in goal on the season. The Wolverines are in first in goals against average in the Big Ten.

“As a goalie I try to talk as much as I can, and the younger players are learning the importance of being loud on the field,” Barwick said.

With this being the final season for Brandes, Brian, and Barwick, the team has high hopes in preparation for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. The newest addition, freshman Aline Fobe, shows promise of putting the Wolverines in contention for another run at the Big Ten and NCAA title.

The Belgian Fobe has already made an impact to the team by collecting the game-winning goal against Iowa in front of the 2001 team, earning her Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors in the process.

Even with the defense’s experience, Fobe’s transition to the team has been a smooth one. As the captain of the Belgium under-18 national team, her teammates agree that she brings an international flavor that allows for everyone to elevate their level of play.

“She fits in really well here. She is very mature for a freshman and very composed under pressure,” Barwick said.

Michigan will face Northwestern on Oct. 7 in Evanston, Ill., where it looks to continue its shutout streak and get one step closer to the Big Ten Tournament starting Nov. 3 in State College, Pa.

Focus was what seniors Brian, Barwick, and Brandes all attributed to the 2001 national championship team’s success, and it’s what they plan to maintain for the rest of their 2011 season.

“We are ready,” said Brandes. “We don’t complain or whine on the field. We just play.”

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