In a game characterized by back-and-forth play, junior forward Rachael Mack finally put the Michigan field hockey team ahead of Ohio State for good with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Wolverines finished off the hard-fought match and topped the visiting Buckeyes, 3-1, at Ocker Field on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off of a big second-half comeback against Michigan State on Friday, the Wolverines started right where they left off, as freshman forward Aisling Naughton streaked into the right circle and put the Wolverines on the board less than two minutes into the game.
“It gives the team confidence to have an early goal,” Naughton said. “You kind of feel like they’re chasing you.”
After Naughton’s early goal, both teams struggled to put the ball in the net. Each team had opportunities to score, but the Buckeyes seemingly took control toward the end of the first half.
After minutes of Ohio State keeping the ball in Michigan’s end, Buckeye forward Danica Deckard tipped the ball into the net from the right post. After the goal, the Buckeyes maintained a large 8-4 lead in shots on goal, despite the 1-1 tie on the scoreboard.
“Ohio State is extremely talented,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “They’ve got an awful lot of really great skill players and I was really pleased with how disciplined we stayed.”
The Wolverines refused to panic, as their defense consistently cleared the ball out from in front of redshirt junior goalie Haley Jones. Despite the Buckeye’s 6-1 advantage in penalty corners and the time spent in Michigan’s defensive zone, the teams went into the locker room at the half tied at one.
For the first 25 minutes of the second half, the teams went back and forth with neither team maintaining an edge. Once Mack scored her goal off of the reverse, the momentum completely changed, permanently placing it in the Wolverine’s favor.
Just six minutes later, Michigan struck again. Mack passed the ball to redshirt sophomore back Leslie Smith off of a corner, and Smith pushed the ball into the top corner of the net to give the Wolverines a commanding 3-1 lead with less than four minutes to play.
“We really just pushed each other,” Mack said. “It was an emotional battle and we wanted to win it more, so we did.”
After starting off 0-2 in Big Ten play, Michigan was extremely excited about their performance against two conference opponents and rivals this weekend.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of the team this weekend,” Pankratz said. “A lot of distractions going on; people have family in town, it’s alumni weekend and I was so proud of how focused the team stayed and how we performed under a lot of pressure.”
During a game with a festive atmosphere, featuring members of the Michigan Marching Band and cheerleading team present for the Maize Star event, the Wolverines showed great discipline and determination in earning the win.
“They took care of business,” Pankratz said. “I didn’t have to do much coaching today at all.”