A quick glance at Michigan’s field hockey record book reveals the names of the current team’s five seniors over and over again.
Captain Katy Moyneur and Adrienne Hortillosa played every game during their four-year tenures; Hortillosa and Jessica Blake appear on the top-10 point scorers list and goalkeeper Molly Maloney sits third all-time on Michigan’s career wins list. These four and captain Kate Dillon finished their illustrious collegiate careers with a disappointing 3-2 loss at the hands of Michigan State last weekend, but the memories of Michigan field hockey’s finest years and a tight-knit 2004 team minimize the disappointment of closing with a loss.
“On the one hand, it was awesome being at home because we had all of our friends and families here with us,” Dillon said. “It was kind of cool to be able to play our last game on our home field. But of course it was State, and we really felt like we had a grasp on it, so that made it tough.”
The Wolverines opened up a 2-1 lead in the first half Nov. 14, giving them hopes of a trip to Wake Forest for the final four, but Michigan State stormed back. The Spartans scored two unanswered goals and ended Michigan’s season. The second half collapse was a disappointment to Hortillosa, who had visions of a national championship.
“It feels really bad because I really felt like we were hitting our peak at that point last weekend,” Hortillosa said. “I was so sure that we were going to go on and we were going to take it all, and it was going to be a fun ride. It’s hard to just base things on that one game that we lost.”
While the frustration of losing such a close game was at first overwhelming, Moyneur looks back with satisfaction on the efforts of her team.
“After losing to Michigan State, it was so disappointing, but it was so hard to be disappointed,” Moyneur said. “I’m proud that everyone played so well. It was such an awesome game, and we just didn’t get more goals than they did. I couldn’t be more proud of how we played.
“We peaked right there and didn’t come out on top. It was upsetting, but there is nothing more that we could have done, except score more goals.”
The seniors’ pride in their team’s effort is rooted in the beginning of the season. Michigan struggled in the early going, compiling a 3-3 record in its first six games. After the rough start, the Wolverines pulled together, knowing that, although their losses were to worthy opponents, they needed to step up their level of play if they had any chance of competing for conference and national titles.
“We’ve been talking all season about trying to have an upward slope of progress from where we started,” Dillon said. “If you plot our season on graph paper, it was an upward slope. We had some tough spots, like the Old Dominion loss, but we bounced right back from that with a big win. And we had a huge win against State. Things just kept on building. You hear about being in the zone, and our team was in the zone.”
Michigan rallied to finish 17-6 overall, sharing the Big Ten regular season crown with Iowa and Michigan State and winning the conference tournament. While it is a far cry from the national championship that they won in 2001, the seniors will forever cherish this season for the relationships they developed with their teammates.
“I would, by far, rather lose with this team than win with any other,” Dillon said. “I think that this year, it puts things into perspective.
“The relationships and the dynamic on your team are what is important. How much you invest in your teammates and friends will ultimately determine how you feel about your year and your season. The fact that this team couldn’t go on — not that our careers were over — was the hard part.”
Though championships were won and records were broken, Blake feels that seemingly less significant moments and the lessons learned from them are what she will take from her experience.
“It’s sort of like a history book,” Blake said. “You know, you have the bold print — national championship, Big Ten championship — those are the things that people see. I think what they don’t see are the little side notes underneath that, and I think that’s what I take away from it. Yeah, there are those big bold statements, but the little writing is way more important.”
As it moves on in five different paths, the senior class’s legacy includes a Big Ten Conference Tournament championship, two Big Ten regular season titles and the 2001 national championship. While she cherishes these achievements, Maloney hopes that the seniors will be remembered for their intangible contributions as well.
“I think that we were really good at leading,” Maloney said. “I think that because we had such a wide variety of people who led us during our years, we were able to develop our own style.
“I think that had a lot to do with our success this season in terms of overcoming adversity and working hard. We just grabbed that bull by the horns and ran with it. And I think we’ll be remembered for that.”