As the No. 16 Michigan field hockey team took on No. 23 Fairfield on Sunday, a group from the Michigan men’s gymnastics team, including recent Olympians Syque Caesar and Sam Mikulak, watched from the stands.

At halftime, a number of spectators gathered around the pair asking for photos. Little did they know, another athlete who competed on the international stage this summer was playing right in front of them.

That was sophomore midfielder Axelle Wouters.

Wouters played for the under-21 Belgian national team at the Junior European Championships over the summer.

The commitment caused Wouters to miss the Wolverines’ first four regular-season games, putting her behind in game preparation compared to her teammates.

“She came straight from tournaments without any sleep and jumped into practice,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz.

Wouters also had to readjust to starting school again and had to become familiar with her 11 new freshman teammates.

“(It was a) tough transition that she handled well,” Pankratz said. “She’s settled in real well.”

The best example of her smooth transition came this past weekend, when she scored three goals, including two on Sunday against Fairfield.

“She’s really come back and started great,” said junior forward Rachael Mack. “She knows what she is doing out there.”

But this wasn’t the case in her first two games back on the pitch for the Wolverines, this season.

“The first two games were really hard for me,” Wouters said. “I was a little tired from the European championship.”

Wouters’ jetlag has vanished over the weekend, though, as she scored all three of her goals on just three shots – allowing her to move from last to fourth place on the team in points for the season.

“She brings a lot savvy and smart play,” Pankratz said. “It helps the younger kids be in the right position.”

YOUNG GUNS PROVIDING SPARK: With a combined 19 first- and second-year players on its roster, Michigan is searching left and right for players to fill voids.

Two such players — redshirt sophomore Leslie Smith and freshman Aisling Naughton — have stepped in already.

Smith, through eight games, has three goals and four assists, which puts her in second on the team in points with 10. Not far behind with seven points is Naughton, who added her third goal of the season on Sunday.

“They’re keeping up with the pace of the game and learning everyday in practice,” Mack said.

TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM: Besides underclassmen providing an offensive boost for the Wolverines, some are also playing out of position for the better of the team.

Freshman Shannon Scavelli, who has transitioned from forward, is now effectively a midfielder.

Scavelli, a high school All-American first-team member, scored 48 goals and tallied 25 assists her senior year on the way to helping Lakeland Shrub Oak High School in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. win the class B state championship last year.

“(She) was an unbelievable goal scorer in high school and we have her in the midfield mostly right now,” Pankratz said.

Though she is a different position than she is used to, that hasn’t stopped Scavelli from contributing on offense as she has registered a goal and two assists this season, including the game-winning assist against then No. 21 Albany on Sept. 7.

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