The Michigan field hockey team started the Big Ten Tournament with high expectations. The Wolverines were looking for their second consecutive Daily Double — winning both the regular-season and Big Ten Tournament titles.
No. 7 Michigan dominated Iowa, 4-1, on Sunday but was denied its Daily Double after a painful 3-2 loss to Penn State in the final.
The Wolverines had beaten the 11th-ranked Hawkeyes twice during the regular season.
In the first half, the teams were tied 1-1. Sophomore forward Rachael Mack scored Michigan’s goal off a corner. Iowa answered with the equalizer just three minutes later.
The tight-scoring game opened up after the first half, with the Wolverines taking control in the second half by outshooting Iowa, 11-2. Michigan scored three goals in the second half, paced by sophomore midfielder Mallory Albini, freshman midfielder Axelle Wouters and senior midfielder Bryn Bain to finish the 4-1 win.
Sophomore goalkeeper Haley Jones had three saves in the win.
Despite being poised to win the tournament title, the Wolverines were simply outplayed in the end by the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions.
Just as Michigan failed to start strong against Iowa, it failed to finish strong against Penn State. In the first half, Michigan’s defense played well and was able to successfully transfer the ball around the backfield.
Penn State forward Amy Kelsey, who was later named the tournament MVP, scored to give the Nittany Lions an early 1-0 lead. Michigan responded several minutes later with a goal by Mack to tie the game, 1-1. Two minutes later, sophomore forward Kim Sheaffer scored to give Michigan the lead.
Kelsey tied the see-saw affair with her second goal of the game for the Nittany Lions. After that, the Wolverines couldn’t muster enough strength to push them ahead.
In the second half, Michigan became more physical as its frustration level rose. Penn State answered back forcefully, with penalty cards and warnings given to both teams before the referees could regain control of the physicality of the game.
Penn State took hold of the lead with a goal from midfielder Hannah Allison, bringing the score to 4-3.
The Wolverines had a chance to tie with three minutes left in the game when freshman forward Aline Fobe went on a breakaway towards the goal, but her shot missed just inches to the right. Michigan was not given another shot, as Penn State ran out the clock.
“Penn State really studied us and they shut down some of the things that really worked for us earlier in the season,” said fifth-year senior backfielder Eileen Brandes. “I think they were fast today, they played well and had a lot of heart. We played as hard as we could and we just missed a few opportunities and just came up short. They tied it up and kept it going and they played well.”
The Wolverines return to the NCAA Tournament next weekend, where they will certainly be a strong contender. But Michigan hopes to use the loss to a good Penn State team to better itself, as the Wolverines did with the loss suffered to No. 9 Stanford just before the Big Ten Tournament.
“(The loss against Stanford was) definitely a wake-up call,” said sophomore midfielder Mallory Albini. “We were just reminded of what our ultimate goal was, obviously to win the NCAA Championship, so we just had to get on track and get focused. The post-season is a new season, so we just had to start fresh.”
This week in practice, the Wolverines will get into a postseason state of mind, planning to make waves in the chase for the NCAA title.
“Tuesday, we practice hard and get our spirits back up,” Brandes said. “Tuesday night, we see where we are going and we get ready for the team we are going to play on Saturday and know we are going to play well.”
NOTES: Last week, sophomore forward Mack, Fobe and Bain were all named to the All-Big Ten first team, while Marcia Pankratz was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fifth time in her career.