EVANSTON It seemed as if the Michigan field hockey team had finally broken through.
With two minutes remaining in the Wolverines” loss to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, Jessica Rose blasted the ball over Ohio State goaltender Allison Blanton to finally put Michigan on the scoreboard.
Or so the Wolverines thought.
While both squads were walking back to the middle of the field, the two referees started to converse. All of a sudden, the goal was disallowed.
This sent Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz into a frenzy, wondering why the goal was disallowed. All referee Suzi Stammer would tell Pankratz was that the shot by Rose “was too high.”
Such events have been symbolic of Michigan”s struggles against top teams this season.
In each of its five losses, each of which were against teams ranked in the top 15, Michigan has outshot its opponent. On Saturday, Michigan had eight shots on goal in comparison to Ohio State”s three, but the Buckeyes scored every time it put the ball on net.
In Michigan”s regular season meeting with the Buckeyes, Ohio State”s only two shots on goal also went in, resulting in a 2-1 Michigan defeat.
In both meetings the Wolverines had at least twice as many penalty corners as the Buckeyes, with 12 corner opportunities to Ohio State”s six on Saturday and 14 to Ohio State”s three in the regular-season matchup.
But the Buckeyes have been able to put the ball in the net when they have had the chance, while Michigan hasn”t.
“They finish every opportunity they get, and we need to at least finish some percentage of our opportunities,” Michigan goaltender Maureen Tasch said.
Michigan”s bad luck goes beyond Ohio State. In their other Big Ten loss to Penn State, the Wolverines outshot the Nittany Lions 10-7. Earlier in the season against No. 4 North Carolina at the Temple Invitational, the Wolverines had 11 penalty corners to the Tar Heels” three and out-shot them 10-6 but lost 2-1. In their season opener against No. 3 Wake Forest, the Wolverines outshot the Demon Deacons 17-12 but lost in overtime 3-2.
“If I had the answer, we wouldn”t have done it,” Pankratz said. “Sometimes that”s a hockey game. Hockey games are that way.”
It”s almost as if the Wolverines only have half the goal with which to work. According to forward April Fronzoni, the team has had numerous goals disallowed for intentionally lifting the ball. But those same high goals seem to be allowed for their opponents.
“We”ve had bad breaks all year,” Fronzoni said.
Since Michigan is likely to enter the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid next week, a new season lies ahead. If they can find a way to put the ball in the net, the Wolverines are still very capable of winning Michigan”s first national championship in a women”s sport.
“We”re still staying strong. We have our heads up,” forward Adrienne Hortillosa said. “We still have two weeks to go. We”re not done. We”re not finished.”
Wolverines recognized: Considering all of the talent on the Michigan team and throughout the Big Ten, freshman forward Adrienne Hortillosa did not think she was going to receive recognition at the Big Ten awards banquet on Thursday.
But, she ended up being Michigan”s star of the evening. Hortillosa was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was also named to the All-Big Ten second team.
“I did not expect that at all. But I”m really grateful for it and really surprised. I”m glad I got it,” Hortillosa said.
Hortillosa has been a big goal scorer off the bench for the Wolverines this season. The forward from Chula Vista, Calif. was tied for second on the team in goals during the regular season with eight, including four game-winners.
Her game-winning goal in overtime against No. 6 Michigan State earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“She has some amazing talent in the circle, and really wonderful skills,” Pankratz said. “She was able to finish a lot of great goals during the season that were game-winners. She was performing in the clutch and deserving of the award.”
Three Wolverines were named to the All Big-Ten first team defenders Kristi Gannon, Stephanie Johnson and Catherine Foreman.
“They are the foundation of our backfield. They are the foundation of our team. I think they are some of the best defenders in the whole nation.” Pankratz said.
Fronzoni, Rose and Tasch joined Hortillosa on the second team.