On Friday, Michigan got two goals from its senior captain, also the team’s scoring leader. On Sunday, the Wolverines got three from a trio of sophomores who combined for two goals last season.
But another weekend against elite competition left the youthful Michigan field hockey team with two narrow defeats at the Husky Invitational in Storrs, Conn. After dropping a 3-2 contest to No. 20 Albany (5-2) on Friday, the Wolverines took No. 4 Connecticut (8-0) to overtime before falling, 4-3.
Senior Sarah Wilhite accounted for both Michigan goals against Albany, but on Sunday, sophomores Zara Saydjari, Alicia Mayer, and Meredith Way all scored for Michigan (3-5). Way’s sixth goal of the season sent the game into overtime with less than a minute left in regulation.
“These kids know that it doesn’t matter what year they are,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said. “They know that once you put the jersey on you’re representing all 20 women in the program.”
Zayjdari scored the game’s first goal after Michigan delivered a flurry of shots against the Connecticut goalkeeper in the opening six minutes.
“The quick start was critical to our game plan,” Cox said. “We knew we had to play with a greater sense of urgency and physicality and we did both of those today.”
Redshirt freshman Christi Barwick started her third consecutive game in goal for Michigan and made five saves. Last season’s starter, Paige Pickett, did not see the field this weekend after starting the first five games of the season.
“Paige and Christi will continue to compete for the opportunity to start in goal until one of them clearly demonstrates who the starter is,” Cox said. “Every one of our players steps on the practice field knowing that they have to earn their minutes.”
That spirit of competition has given the team a positive attitude in the midst of a tough opening-season schedule.
“If you don’t play top-10 teams, then how do your kids know the level at which they have to compete?” Cox said. “Michigan needs to be a top-four team every year and playing teams like Connecticut affords us the opportunity to gauge how we need to improve.”
Cox said the early-season gauntlet will prove invaluable when the Wolverines play conference foes.
“We just played a top-four team and we took them to overtime,” Cox said. “We will be ready for Big Ten play next weekend.”
Michigan’s conference opener comes next Saturday in Ann Arbor against Northwestern.