On Sunday afternoon at Ocker Field, the Jaws theme song eerily played over the loud speakers. For Vermont’s goalie Erin Hickey, the sight of three Michigan players setting up for yet another corner must have been as imposing as a man-eating shark.
The Michigan field hockey team attacked early and often, defeating the Catamounts 5-0 in front of a boisterous home crowd. The win was the fifth straight for the Wolverines.
“(The game) went well,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said. “There are many things we need to get better at – particularly our defensive ball patterns. But we’re getting much better on the attacking end and the defensive end.”
Offensively, the Wolverines took 16 shots in the first half compared to just two from Vermont (2-6). Michigan’s stifling defense kept Catamount attacks few and far between.
“It’s all because of my defense, and today they did their part,” senior goaltender Beth Riley said. “If I don’t touch the ball it shows I have a great team in front of me.”
With the win – No. 35 for Riley – the netminder broke Katie Oaks’s record for career wins.
“Beth is just doing awesome for us,” Morris said. “Having her back there gives our team so much confidence. (Having her) come off one shut out last week and just rolling into this one, I couldn’t be happier for her.”
The match began as a game of field position, with neither team straying too far into the other’s zone. Michigan had its first scoring opportunity of the game when senior Katie Morris had room on the left side of the field to make a run toward the net. But her crossing pass over the middle was deflected by a Vermont defender, causing it to narrowly miss the goal.
The No. 8 Wolverines (5-3) were finally able to break through and draw first blood on a corner at 10:49 in the game. Freshman Sarah Wilhite pushed the ball toward the top right side of the circle to Morris who fired the ball back to Wilhite. The entire left side of the goal was still open and Wilhite notched the first goal of the game easily.
Sophomore Lucia Belassi scored the second goal of the game for Michigan. After three corners in a row where the Wolverines failed to score, senior Nicole Lonsway received a corner push from a few feet outside the circle and took a laser shot that Belassi deflected past the diving goalie.
The Wolverines continued their scoring attack on a Morris deflection. Wilhite fired the ball from the right side of the circle. Morris – coming in hard toward the middle – spun and deflected the ball back to her right, just past the outstretched leg of Hickey and into the right corner of the net. Belassi finished the first half scoring with tip off a corner to make the game 4-0.
“Anytime you can keep the ball down (in the circle), it’s always a confidence boost,” Morris said. “I think our offense felt a little better today, and we’ll just keep trying to build off that as we go.”
Michigan did not score as many goals in the second half but there was no lack of scoring chances. The Wolverines had 13 more shots in the second half and four more corners.
But Hickey stepped it up in the second half, only allowing one more goal. Wilhite scored that goal on a hard slap from the left side of the circle, and Morris notched the assist.
“One of our goals is to maintain our intensity and keep the tempo up,” Morris said. “Maybe we didn’t get enough corners (in the second half), but I think the tempo was still there. And I thought we fought hard till the end.”