KENT, Ohio — Years from now, people won’t remember
that yesterday the Michigan field hockey team played the consensus
No. 1 team in the country. They won’t remember that its
opponent had six senior starters. They won’t remember that
its opponent had beaten the Wolverines just two years earlier in
the same game.

But they will remember that these women were the leaders and the
best.

Led by the incredible play of senior goaltender Maureen Tasch
and a great all-around defensive effort, the Michigan field hockey
team knocked off top-ranked Maryland 2-0 to capture the NCAA
Division I National Championship and Michigan’s first
national title in a women’s sport.

“I’m happy to bring another one home for the
Wolverines,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz.
“Men’s programs, women’s programs, revenue,
non-revenue — it doesn’t matter. We’re just
really proud to be a part of the University.”

This completes a resurgence to a program that had never made the
NCAA tournament until 1999 when the Terrapins defeated the
Wolverines in the title game.

“It’s pretty darn exciting,” Michigan Athletic
Director Bill Martin said last night. “Being the first of
anything is pretty historic.”

Tasch pulled out the first shutout in a championship game since
1996. She stopped 13 shots against the nation’s No. 1 scoring
offense, giving the first field hockey title to a school west of
Virginia since Iowa won in 1986.

“Obviously nothing could be better than this and it still
hasn’t quite all processed in my mind,” Tasch said.
“I haven’t cried like everyone else yet.”

Maryland controlled the play early, but with two minutes
remaining in the first half, Kristi Gannon sent a crossing pass
from the far right side through the Maryland defense and Maryland
keeper Ashley Hohnstine and somehow found Big Ten freshman of the
year Adrienne Hortillosa in front of a wide-open net to put the
ball home, giving Michigan the lead.

“The first five minutes, they really kind of came at us,
and I think then we kind of got our jitters out and sold ourselves
and got back in it,” said Michigan midfielder Jessica
Rose.

Just after intermission, Michigan stunned the crowd as Gannon
found Rose at the top of the circle off a penalty corner. Rose
blasted it into the net to give the underdog Wolverines a two-goal
advantage.

Maryland dominated play for the rest of the game, but the
Michigan defense, led by Tasch, Stephanie Johnson, and Catherine
Foreman, staved off the Terrapins.

“The last 20 minutes they really had us on our heels, but
we held on,” Rose said.

Maryland fired eleven shots in the second half, but Tasch made
one incredible save after another. Even after Michigan forward
April Fronzoni was called off the field with about 12 minutes
remaining for a yellow card for tackling a player from behind, the
constant adversity only made Michigan stronger.

“I felt like with each little new challenge they were put
with, I just knew that we would get even stronger,” Tasch
said.

While they were not as highly ranked as the Terrapins, the ups
and downs that Michigan experienced throughout the season gave them
confidence going in. The Wolverines were at one point ranked No. 2
in the country but, toward the end of the season, dropped two
conference games and lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten
Tournament. Meanwhile, Maryland had rolled through its regional and
came into the game having won nine in a row.

“I felt like the No. 1 team today maybe didn’t have
the ups and downs and the adversity to relish what we had been
in,” Johnson said. “So we knew what sort of great
opportunity we had been presented with today.”

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