The No. 19 Michigan field hockey team learned this weekend that the Big Ten is tougher than it originally thought.
The Wolverines, last year’s conference champions, coasted through their first two Big Ten games heading into Sunday’s matchup against Indiana (1-3 Big Ten, 7-6 overall). Michigan’s conference record last season has many opponents anticipating a rematch this year. A disappointing 2-1 loss derailed Michigan’s effort to get through the Big Ten schedule undefeated.
“I don’t think we played Michigan hockey, to be truthful,” senior captain Sarah Wilhite said “We were sluggish and really tired out there, and they really took advantage of us.”
The Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 6-7 overall) rode their confidence from their 2-0 start in conference through the first half of yesterday’s game, but ran out of steam and lost rhythm.
“What we really need to work on right off the bat is playing together and picking up the tempo,” Wilhite said. “We should have gone out there and been able to keep the tempo of the game and we should have kept possession but instead it was back and forth the whole time. That really killed us.”
Sophomore Meredith Way scored Michigan’s first and only goal, a straight shot off the right corner, with 8:55 left in the first half. The early goal gave the Wolverines a false sense of security.
“(Indiana) wasn’t having a strong season,” Wilhite said. “We just thought (a win) was going to happen. We got that first goal really early and we thought we could just sit on that.”
They were wrong.
The Hoosiers took advantage of Michigan’s tired legs in the second half, and they had thoroughly studied the Wolverines playing style before the game. Indiana took advantage of that knowledge to block Michigan’s back line, its usual method for transferring the ball, forcing the Wolverines to move forward with the ball.
Although the Wolverines changed how they put pressure on the Hoosiers in the second half and again in the last quarter, they weren’t able to consistently score. Eight shots yielded just one goal.
“We really need to work on getting the ball to the back of the net,” Wilhite said. “We are getting shots. They are just not such good quality. We either shot wide or their goalie came up with a good save. We had chances, and they should have been finished.”
The Wolverines have the opportunity to finish strong starting next week when they play their next conference game against Michigan State.