COLUMBUS – After beating Ohio State 3-2 Saturday to advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game, Michigan field hockey forward Molly Powers wasn’t concerned about which team she faced in the championship game (Penn State or Michigan State), but she knew if the Wolverines faced the Spartans, it would be a hard-fought contest.
“Michigan State games sometimes don’t have pretty hockey,” Powers said after the Ohio State game.
In a game in which both teams struggled to find quality scoring chances, No. 5 Michigan State (5-1 Big Ten, 21-2 overall) shut out No. 2 Michigan (6-0, 18-3) 3-0 yesterday to win the Tournament title, its first in program history. This was the first time an opponent blanked Michigan since Sept. 1 – not an easy task against the nation’s sixth-rated offense.
The Wolverines had trouble finding a rhythm in the game, with several potential scoring chances being spoiled by Spartan defenders. The defense limited the Wolverines to 14 shots in the game and denied Michigan on all nine of its penalty corners.
“We didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We needed to counter-attack a little bit better and we weren’t able to do that today.”
The Spartans jumped out to an early lead by working hard in the circle, and scored on a well-executed penalty corner to give Michigan State the lead in the first half. But the turning point came when midfielder Jessica Rose received a yellow card with 30 minutes to go in the second half, forcing the Wolverines to play short-handed.
“I think the momentum shifted when (Rose) got yellow carded,” Pankratz said.
Less than two minutes later, Michigan State forward Michelle Huynh-Ba lifted a shot from just inside the circle that flew over the shoulder of goalkeeper Molly Maloney to give the Spartans a comfortable two-goal lead. Michigan State added another tally on a penalty corner to secure the title.
While the Spartans were able to capitalize on their penalty corner opportunities, Michigan couldn’t find the touch. The Wolverines had two corners in the final 10 minutes, but failed to convert on either of them.
“Their corners were on and ours weren’t,” Powers said. “We had our opportunities and they didn’t fall today. We ran a couple of balls over the endline when we should have had them on our stick in the circle. We didn’t convert when we needed to.”
Michigan State’s win ends a string of nine straight victories by the Wolverines dating back to 1997. The Spartans also ended their streak of futility at the Big Ten Tournament. Since the tournament began in 1994, the Spartans held a 1-7 record. Their lone victory came against Iowa in 1997.
“Anytime we play Michigan, we know it makes us better,” Michigan State coach Michelle Madison said. “Michigan is always a great team.”
For as much difficulty as Michigan had finding openings in the Spartans’ defense, they were much easier to find against Ohio State. The Buckeyes (2-4, 8-10) had trouble stopping the wide-open Michigan offense, as it scored two goals off excellent passes. Rose stole a restart pass away from a Buckeye defender and fed a cross-field pass to Powers, who walked in all alone.
“Powers said at halftime to look up to the left because she felt she was open,” Rose said. “When I looked up, I saw Powers coming and sent the ball right to her.”
The Wolverines will wait to see who they face this coming weekend, as the NCAA Tournament bracket will be unveiled on tomorrow.
Spartans play good ball
Michigan State won its first field hockey Big Ten Tournamnet this weekend, ending its dismal performances in previous years.
Game 1: Michigan State 3, Indiana 0
The Spartans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first two minutes, and dominated the Hoosiers by allowing just three shots on goal.
Game 2: Michigan State 3, Penn State 2
After all the problems on the penalty corner the day before, Michigan State scored all three of its goals off penalty corners in the first half.
Game 3: Michigan State 3, Michigan 0
Michigan State stifled Michigan’s forwards, and shut out the Wolverines for just the second time this season.