Stopping the corner has been the battle cry for the Michigan field hockey team this week. The Wolverines are traveling to the Temple Invitational in Philadelphia, where they will face North Carolina tomorrow. The Tar Heels are considered by some to be the best team in the country and their corner game has been on Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz”s mind.
“North Carolina has a really strong corner attack, and that”s their set scoring piece,” Pankratz said. “We”ve emphasized defending that, and limiting as many corners as they can get.”
The Wolverines are riding on the crest of a three-game winning streak, in which they beat defending national champion Old Dominion, and received 210 scoreless minutes and three-straight shutouts from senior goalkeeper Maureen Tasch. But her value goes beyond just shutouts.
“Shots and saves don”t necessarily speak to how valuable Mo is back there,” sophomore defender Stephanie Johnson said. “A lot of being a goalkeeper is coming up with the clutch saves, but also, the communication and organization she provides on the defensive end that amounts to the shutouts.”
Michigan (3-1) now looks to its first road matches of the year at the invitational, where it will not only face North Carolina, and also either Maine or Temple on Saturday. It will be another tough test for this team, but being away from home may have its advantages.
“When you”re on the road, you”re together as a team, you”re unified, there”s no distractions from family and school and we do play well on the road,” Pankratz said.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Ali Balmer, April Fronzoni, Krista Meckley and Jessica Rose who are all from Pennsylvania. In addition, Michigan volunteer coach Tracey Fuchs is the sister of Temple head coach Lauren Fuchs.
“It”ll be exciting, we have a lot of players from Pennsylvania, it will be nice for them to play in front of their high schools, friends and family,” Pankratz said.
Defense, goalkeeping and just enough offense have been the winning combination thus far.
The Wolverines hope nothing will change corners notwithstanding.
Johnson Awarded Conference Honor: This week, Stephanie Johnson became the first Wolverine to be bestowed with Big Ten honors this year, netting the Big Ten defensive player of the week award. Her play to bat a sure goal out of the air late in the Virginia game shut the door on any possible Virginia comeback.
“As an athlete you kind of hope for those situations, where you know it”s coming, and you hope that you can execute,” Johnson said. “It”s an
honor (to be recognized), it”s kind of nice to have your face in the paper, but the team won, and that”s the important thing.”
But Johnson feels that the award is more a credit to the whole Michigan defense rather than to herself.
“Team defense, double teams, and coming up with important tackles to keep it out of the circle, that”s what we pride ourselves on,” Johnson said. “That”s what we”ve been doing all along.”
FRESHMAN SHINES: One of the other players that has come up big for the Wolverines has been freshman forward Adrienne Hortillosa, who has scored the game-winning goal in each of the last two matches, both of which have been 1-0 victories. Hortillosa, a sniper who seems to be in the right place at the right time, has fit right in despite her relative inexperience.
“I didn”t even think I”d be starting,” Hortillosa said. “But once you get in the first game, all the butterflies go away. Especially with this team, the girls are awesome.”