Locked in a 2-2 tie with under a minute left to play in Sunday’s game at Temple, Michigan junior Katie Morris took aim and fired on a penalty corner opportunity. Temple goalkeeper Erin Hanshue made the save, but couldn’t control the rebound and Wolverine freshman Stephanie Hoyer banged the ball in, giving Michigan a 3-2 lead with 39 seconds remaining.
“The past couple of weeks the coaches have been stressing staying low and getting on the post,” Hoyer said. “My teammate got the ball past their goalie, and I was there to put it in.”
Hoyer’s goal, her second of the game, was the key score for the Michigan field hockey team (1-3), and gave first-year head coach Nancy Cox her first collegiate head coaching victory. The Wolverines managed to hang on for the victory, despite enduring three losses to begin the season.
“I’m extremely happy for the team,” Cox said. “They have shown fantastic growth and improvement this season.”
Part of what has Cox so excited about her club this year is their ability to hang tough when things fall apart on the field. Twice against Temple (1-3), the Wolverines saw a one goal lead slip away, and both times they responded with a score of their own to keep the pressure on and eventually ensure their first win of the year.
“They really had to weather adversity [Sunday],” Cox said. “It’s not easy to be scored upon, but how they responded to that challenge demonstrated the type of team that we are quickly becoming.”
Prior to beating Temple, the Wolverines had been winless on the young season. But Michigan’s three game losing skid was not as bad as it seems, considering the losses came to three teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament last season — defending ACC champion North Carolina, three-time defending national champion Wake Forest and a tough Maryland squad.
More worrisome than the losses themselves was the Wolverines’ inability to get the ball in the net. After scoring a total of one goal in their first three games, Michigan is hoping Sunday’s offensive production can lead to a more explosive attack for the rest of the season.
“We’re very young, but at the same time, things look very promising,” Cox said. “As soon as our finishers really start finishing with consistency, things will be great for Michigan field hockey.”
One possible source for the consistency Cox is looking for is Hoyer, who on Sunday notched her first career goals as a Wolverine, including the game winner in the closing seconds.
“It was really exciting,” Hoyer said. “I’m really glad I got it.”
Playing in the friendly confines of Ocker Field can’t hurt Michigan’s play either. All four games the Wolverines have played so far have been on the road, but this week Michigan comes home, where they will play three of their next four games. The Wolverines will host Miami (Ohio) in the opener on Friday. The Redbirds enter the game on a two-game losing streak and a 1-2 record overall. On Saturday, Old Dominion comes to Ann Arbor, where Michigan will be looking for revenge after seeing a 2-0 lead slip away in a 3-2 overtime loss at home last season. After a rough road start the Wolverines hope to pick up some momentum playing at home.
“We are excited to get home on our own turf,” Hoyer said. “I think we are a lot more confident now, and our coaches keep reminding us that it’s not where you start but where you finish.”