It’s an easy model to follow: The earlier and more frequently a team shoots, the more likely it is for them to score.
The No. 17 Michigan field hockey team learned this as it fell to No. 6 Penn State, 4-3, on Sunday after giving up three early first-half goals in its Big Ten opener.
After recording two straight shutouts against Bucknell and then-No. 23 Fairfield on Sept. 16 and 23, the Wolverines (0-1 Big Ten, 6-4 overall) gave up two quick goals to the Nittany Lions’ Ashtin Klinger.
“We just weren’t playing our game and sticking to our game plan,” said redshirt sophomore defender Leslie Smith. “We were letting them beat us to the ball.”
Kleiger’s first goal came off of a cross by Hannah Allison that Kleiger reflected with her stick into the right corner of the net at the 3:57 mark. It was the first goal and the first shot on goal of the game.
Before Michigan could get off its first shot of the game, the Nittany Lions (2-0, 10-2) scored again – 10 minutes later. Klingler added her second of the game and seventh of the season after a scramble in front of the net.
The goal resulted in a timeout by the Wolverines that aimed to calm the players down.
“We had to make a couple of adjustments,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “(The timeout) worked really well and we came out toe-to-toe with them the rest of the way.”
Three minutes after the timeout, Michigan was finally able to register its first shot – albeit not on goal.
This brief moment of success did not last for long, as Penn State tallied its third goal of the first half at the 18:40 mark off a corner. After initially put in play by Whitney Reddig, the ball was rocketed by Kelsey Amy into the back of the net for her 15th goal of the season, making the score 3-0.
The Wolverines were able to get on the board two minutes later, as junior forward Rachael Mack scored her first of two goals off a shot from the top of the box that took a high bounce before rolling in to the net to make the score 3-1.
The Nittany Lions struck right back less than two minutes later, thanks to an unassisted goal by Jenna Chrismer, who fired a shot from the left side of the net.
Five minutes later, Michigan mounted another comeback as Mack scored her 10th goal of the season off a corner started by Smith, who passed the ball to senior Liesl Morris at the top of the box before passing to Mack, who finished the sequence.
It appeared the Wolverines might have the momentum it needed to stage a dramatic second-half comeback.
“We made some tactical chances,” said Pankratz. “I was happy with the team being able to make those changes in the middle of the game.”
In the second half, the Wolverines were outshot 17-6 and outcornered 7-1, yet they managed to score the lone goal of the second half when Smith scored on a penalty shot.
But just 15 seconds remained on the game clock.
“We won the second half of the game,” Pankratz said. “I think we really elevated our level of play by the end of the match.”
Michigan was outshot 30-14 and out-cornered 13-3.
Due to the amount of shots by the Nittany Lions, redshirt junior Haley Jones was able to record a career-high 14 saves – nine of which came in the second half.
“Penn State is a really strong team,” Pankratz said. “I was really proud of how hard we fought.”