There was undoubtedly a special feel to the Michigan field hockey game on Friday.

Televised by the Big Ten Network, the game was notable for its opponent, No. 19 Michigan State, as well as the fact that both teams were pink-clad since the game was dedicated to breast cancer awareness. All the extra attention, though, seemed to adversely affect the Wolverines in the opening strains of the afternoon tilt.

“There was a lot of build up for today and I think sometimes that can really hurt your team negatively,” said redshirt junior goalie Haley Jones. “With a lot of activity going on, the focus isn’t solely on the game so today it got us a little bit in the first half. We were a little excited about everything, but we regrouped and then we were ready to play.”

Regrouping at halftime, the Wolverines were able to quickly erase an early two-goal deficit. The game would stay a 2-2 draw for the duration of regulation time, forcing sudden-death overtime. In overtime, freshman forward Aisling Naughton scored the game-winning goal to give Michigan the 3-2 victory.

Even with fair warning, some of Michigan’s younger players were understandably affected by all the commotion early on. As the game progressed, however, they seemed to become less and less affected by all the activity around them. In the end, the Wolverines were able to put all of it behind them and earn a hard-fought victory.

“We talked about the distractions in a big game like today, and I think you can say it all you want but that’s what experience is all about,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz “The younger players were distracted and that’s just the way it is.

“To get a game like that under their belt and know they can still perform without bringing their best game is a good sign.”

This game was labeled “Two Teams, One Goal” for the efforts of both Michigan and Michigan State in their fight against breast cancer. This game was the start of “Pink Week” in which several of Michigan’s teams will support breast cancer research and awareness. One way in which the field hockey participated was by wearing pink shirts, headbands, socks and even adorning Jones’ goalie helmet with the color pink. In addition to raising awareness it also gave Michigan some extra motivation.

“When we got our pink socks and then our pink t-shirts coming into warm-ups, we all got a bit more motivation because we are doing it for a good cause,” Naughton said.

Another factor that went into the game’s atmosphere was the fact that the Wolverines were playing their in-state rivals from East Lansing. With a raucous Spartan bench and many State fans in the stands, the game had a true rivalry feel. This rivalry, also gave some motivation to the Wolverines.

“We’re playing Michigan State so we always wanted to win more and because it was our home turf,” Naughton said.

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