Michigan coach Nancy Cox has stressed the importance of adjusting – no matter how late in the season or the opponent’s record – to her No. 5 field hockey squad all season.
“Once you figure out where you size up, you start making adjustments and start doing what we do every day, and that’s the process of getting better,” Cox said. “Luckily, these guys have embraced that.”
After the Wolverine offense was stifled in two halves by Indiana goalie Haley Exner Friday afternoon, Michigan midfielder/forward Paige Laytos finally found daylight nine minutes into the first overtime. All alone on a breakaway, the sophomore flicked the ball over a charging, diving Exner. The shot slowly trickled into the goal, giving the Wolverines (5-0 Big Ten, 11-4 overall) a 1-0 victory and at least a share of the Big Ten Championship on Senior Day at Phyllis Ocker Field.
The conference title is the team’s first since 2004.
Laytos’s third goal of the season also gave Michigan its ninth straight win.
Exner stopped eight Michigan shots, several of them sprawling on the ground. With the
Michigan offense aggressive but frustrated, Laytos remembered her coach’s advice while
streaking in on the goal, the Hoosier goalie standing between her and a conference title.
“We’ve been working on . getting the ball up in the air because we know that Haley Exner likes to ground herself, and she certainly demonstrated that she was successful with it,” Cox said. “Paige Laytos got the ball in the air and managed to score. Imagine that. Exactly what we’ve been telling them to do all week.”
The Wolverines played on their heels throughout the final 12 minutes of regulation, as a
Hoosier offense that was passive and, at times, anemic in the first half suddenly came to
life. Indiana registered four second-half corner opportunities, one of which set up what
looked to be the go-ahead goal with just more than 12 minutes left in the half before being disallowed by the referees.
Cox attributed the sudden change in Indiana’s aggressiveness in part to Michigan’s preoccupation with the search for its offensive spark.
“We started moving some of our midfielders up to the forward line to see if we could
generate some attack, and we learned very quickly that it wasn’t being very effective for
us,” Cox said. “So we pulled those kids back into the midfield.”
“I was glad we got to the overtime period because Indiana, they were dominating the last 12 minutes of the second half.”
Michigan has now won eight of its last nine meetings with Indiana (0-4 Big Ten, 6-7 overall) and will travel to Mount Pleasant to take on Central Michigan today at 3 p.m., a team the Wolverines have defeated nine straight times.