The Michigan field hockey team extended its win streak to five games, showing resiliency and determination in a 2-1 road victory over Iowa on Friday
The No. 12 Hawkeyes (12-5, 3-2 Big Ten) were a formidable opponent for the 14th-ranked Wolverines (12-5, 4-2 Big Ten), who are winding their regular season down. After handing Iowa its first home loss of the season, Michigan will be back in Iowa City this weekend for the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa was on its heels throughout the first half, showing little offensive action in the Michigan circle. The Wolverine defense, anchored by redshirt sophomore back Leslie Smith, contained the Hawkeyes as they failed to pressure redshirt junior Haley Jones.
Freshman back Lauren Thomas put Michigan on the board 10 minutes into the game, forcing Iowa to regroup. The momentum switched after the half, when Iowa junior midfielder Dani Hemeon on a rebound after Jones made the initial save. Just three minutes later, though, sophomore forward Emy Guttman scored on a fantastic redirection on a pass from redshirt sophomore mid Sammy Gray outside the circle.
“After it hit off my stick, it felt like it was slow motion. I didn’t know where the ball went,” Guttman said. “I looked and it was in the goal. I didn’t know it had gone in, I was just excited.”
It was an emotional victory for the Wolverines — not only was it Guttman’s birthday, the University of Iowa is where Michigan head coach Marcia Pankratz played field hockey in college.
“It’s always very fun coming back to Iowa City, I love the town, and I certainly have a lot of respect for the field hockey program,” Pankratz said. “On the days that we play Iowa, I’m certainly trying to beat them because it’s great competition, but when they are playing anyone else, I put my alumni hat on and cheer them on.”
The Wolverines are 11-1 when they score two or more goals this season, and they continued that trend against Iowa. Three of four losses have been by one goal. But Jones, who made 10 saves Friday, has kept Michigan in games all season. She’s had five games where she recorded double-digit saves.
With about five minutes left in the game, Iowa freshman forward Natalie Cafone sprinted down the field in a breakaway, but was promptly stonewalled by Jones.
Jones cites a strong, stable defense as an advantage, especially heading into postseason play.
“I think overall our defense really stepped up and we matched their aggressiveness,” she said. “We were ready for what came our way. I think we had a lot of corners, but our defense in the circle was super strong and we just stayed aggressive.”
The Hawkeyes drew 10 corners, many back-to-back, but Jones said the incessant corners didn’t faze her.
“We practice a lot of corners, so you get used to doing a lot of them,” she said. “You have to stay composed, so I think having them get two (corners) in a row is tough luck, but its better to get another corner than another goal.”
Overall, the Hawkeyes and Wolverines were evenly matched, as Iowa managed to hold junior forward Rachael Mack to just two shots. Guttman said this game was a confidence booster and an indication of their growth this season.
“I think we all played well and played for each other today,” she said. “Everyone had each other’s back, and if someone got beat or someone made a mistake everyone worked together to come back. I think we did a good job playing the entire game; we didn’t have any lapses of not focusing or paying attention.”
The Wolverines end their regular season on Sunday against Central Michigan, and then head to the Big Ten Tournament, but Pankratz said Michigan’s victory over Iowa will bode well for the upcoming tournament.
“It’s not so easy to come into Iowa City and play against a really strong team,” she said. “They are very experienced. I’m very proud of our team for being relentless and very tenacious, they focused throughout the whole game and I’m proud of them for performing under pressure.”