The Michigan field hockey team will meet a familiar foe this weekend in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The 16-team bracket was unveiled yesterday, and the fourth-ranked Wolverines will begin their defense of the national championship by taking on Princeton in State College on Saturday. Michigan (6-0 Big Ten, 18-3 overall) played the Tigers in last year’s semifinal match, defeating them 4-2 to advance to the championship game. The West region is rounded out by Penn State and Kent State.
Princeton’s loss to Michigan should be fresh in the the Tigers’ minds. Last year was the first time the two teams met, and Princeton (7-0 Ivy League, 11-6 overall) returns all of its players from last year’s roster.
“We’re happy (with the bracket),” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “They’re a great team and we know their personnel very well.”
Playing in State College is nothing new for the Wolverines, having already played two games there this season. Michigan beat Penn State 3-1 on Oct. 25, and lost a neutral-site game to No. 1 Old Dominion the following day.
“We’ve done well on Penn State’s field, and we play there every year, so we’re used to their surface,” Pankratz said.
In addition to familiarity with Bigler Field, three Wolverines hail from the Keystone State – midfielders Jessica Rose and Krista Meckley and forward April Fronzoni.
“Penn State is another home turf for us,” Fronzoni said. “I’m hoping a lot of friends and family come out to see me play.”
Should Michigan advance to the second round, the Wolverines will face one of two teams that are ranked in the top 10 nationally. Kent State is fresh off winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament, and Penn State will attempt to rebound from its 3-2 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.