Michigan field hockey defender Stephanie Johnson adamantly rejected the idea that this weekend’s nonconference matchups have the potential to cause a letdown in the team’s play.
“The ACC presents a very big challenge for us,” Johnson said. “They play a different game than Big Ten field hockey. They’re very finesse oriented, and we’re physical combined with the finesse. It will help us down the line for the NCAA Tournament.”
The junior from Houston, Texas wasted little time addressing the concern that the second-ranked Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 15-2 overall) might come out a little flat in this weekend’s games against Virginia and Duke.
Last Saturday, Michigan dropped its first game since early September to No. 1 Old Dominion, a devastating 4-3 overtime loss that saw the Wolverines tie the game after being down 3-0. This came the day after Michigan clinched the Big Ten title with a 3-1 win over Penn State, ending conference play for the regular season.
“We feel the Big Ten conference is probably the strongest competition we’ll face all season,” said Johnson, who scored two goals in the Penn State game. “It’s always good to have that different look going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
With the difficult conference season complete and the postseason tournament looming next weekend, the tendency to overlook two nonconference games at the end of the season is easy to understand. But the Wolverines must avoid a psychological let-down as both opponents are ranked in the top 20.
“We’ve learned this year that every team is going to bring their ‘A’ game for us, because they’re playing the defending national champions,” forward April Fronzoni said. “Even though we have the Big Ten regular season title, we still have a lot to do before the season is over.”
Something to work on as the season winds down is responding positively to adversity. The Wolverines set a new school record for consecutive wins (14), a streak that was snapped at the hands of Old Dominion. The Monarchs handed Michigan its second loss providing the Wolverines with just their second opportunity to rebound after a defeat. Michigan has reason to be optimistic; with its backs against the wall, it fought back to tie the game – the mark of a championship team.
“We were down 3-0, and a lot of teams could have been down and out, but we fought through it,” said Fronzoni, who tied the game at three with six minutes to go. “This team showed a lot of courage and a lot of character, and we know we can stay with any team in the country, and nothing can stop us this year.”