The Michigan field hockey team showed this weekend that it can dominate other conferences besides the Big Ten.

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Old Dominion, the second-ranked Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 17-2 overall) trounced No. 20 Virginia (1-4 ACC, 9-10) 5-0 on Saturday and then concluded the weekend yesterday with a 3-2 victory over No. 11 Duke.

The wins increased Michigan’s record against ranked opponents this season to 7-1.

“We’re not afraid of losing,” coach Marcia Pankratz said. “We’re not afraid to play against the best. That’s the only way you get better. I feel really good about the way we’re playing right now.”

Duke (1-4, 12-7) actually surprised Michigan by grabbing an early 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the game, when forward Katie Grant deflected a shot in the circle past Wolverine goalkeeper Molly Maloney. But that was the last time the Blue Devils would ever hold a lead, as the Wolverines quickly increased their offensive pressure and seized control of the game.

Sophomore Adrienne Hortillosa and junior April Fronzoni each notched goals before halftime, and junior Stephanie Johnson connected on a penalty shot within the first minute of the second half to give Michigan a lead that was too much for Duke to overcome.

The Blue Devils mounted a serious charge in the final minutes to tie the game. But the Wolverines’ defense was phenomenal and prevented the Duke forwards from getting away any shots inside the circle.

“This was a hard game,” Pankratz said. “The field was very wet, and the conditions were really messy. Both teams had trouble keeping possession. I was really proud the way our defense hung tough down the stretch.”

Michigan’s defense was even stronger against Virginia, allowing just four shots and helping Maloney earn her ninth shutout of the season – a school record that was previously set last year by Maureen Tasch.

“It’s a wonderful achievement for Molly,” Pankratz said. “She really earned this milestone too because she had to make a brilliant save at the end of the game on a penalty corner to preserve the shutout.”

The win also allowed new players to contribute to Michigan’s offensive statistics. Freshman Lori Hillman recorded her first career point with an assist on junior Jen Zangara’s goal at the end of the first half.

Zangara’s goal was her first since last season, when she scored against Ball State.

Michigan will now have a week to prepare for the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held next weekend in Columbus.

The Wolverines still have a chance to duplicate their flawless conference run in 2000, when they went undefeated in the conference and captured both the regular season and tournament titles.

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