On Aug. 26, the Michigan field hockey team fell to No. 2 Wake Forest, 3-2. Yesterday, it happened again – but this time, it ended the Wolverines’ season. The 3-2 loss came in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Phyllis Ocker Field.
Despite the loss, the Wolverines can hold their heads – and their Big Ten Championship – high.
“We couldn’t be prouder of these young women,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said.
Against Wake Forest, the Wolverines jumped out to an early lead on a Sarah Wilhite rebound shot. But the Demon Deacons responded almost immediately, regaining the lead with two goals in six minutes to enter halftime with a one-goal advantage.
Michigan stormed out of the gates again in the second half and tied the game 2-2 on senior co-captain Lucia Belassi’s second goal of the tournament. Seven minutes later, the Demon Deacons regained the lead for good on their first penalty corner of the afternoon.
“We played our hearts out today,” Belassi said.
Statistically, the Wolverines outplayed Wake Forest in both halves, producing three more shots and four more corners than the Demon Deacons.
“We dominated the entire game,” sophomore Jenner Johnson said. “We just couldn’t get the win.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Paige Pickett had another standout performance. She turned away six shots on goal and stopped a penalty shot in the waning minutes of the second half to keep the deficit at one.
“Paige has been one of our most valuable players,” Belassi said. “We couldn’t have gotten here without her.”
The loss comes only a day after a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory over Ohio in the first round of the tournament. After being turned away by a ferocious Bobcat defense for more than 80 minutes, Belassi scored the game’s lone goal 13 minutes into the extra frame.
“Lucia’s never too high, and she’s never too low,” Cox said. “That’s a great attribute in a goal-scorer, but more importantly, in a co-captain.”
With yesterday’s loss, four seniors – Ashley Lennington, Jillianne Whitfield, and co-captains Kristen Tiner and Belassi – have now played their final game for Michigan.
“It’s been the best four years of my life,” said Belassi.
Said Cox: “They are four exceptional women. Each year, the mandate for our seniors is to leave the program better than they found it, and those four have succeeded. They leave us as Big Ten champions. They leave us as great students. And they leave as great ambassadors to the community.”