When the Michigan field hockey team leaves for the NCAA Final Four in Kent, Ohio today, it will not only represent Michigan, but it will be representing the entirety of Michigan women”s athletics.
The Wolverines will try to earn the school its first ever national championship in a women”s sport this weekend, as they take on No. 6 Princeton in the national semifinals Friday for the right to play either No. 1 Maryland or No. 3 Wake Forest for the title on Sunday afternoon.
“It definitely does put a little twist on things knowing that we could make history,” forward April Fronzoni said. “It”s definitely something that”s been on our head and everyone brings it up.”
Michigan is making its second trip to field hockey”s biggest event in three years. The Wolverines made it to the championship game in 1999 in the team”s first NCAA Tournament appearance, but ended up losing to Wake Forest 2-1. But now the team has experienced the excitement of the event, giving them an advantage that was lacking two years ago.
“I think there”s nothing like experience,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “Our seniors and our juniors have been there and I think they will bring that experience with them.”
For a while, it did not seem like the Wolverines would be in this position. After losing three out of its last seven games, including a 3-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, the team roared back to upset No. 4 North Carolina and No. 7 Michigan State at last weekend”s regional to earn the trip to Kent.
“We did have our rough spots during the season toward the end.” Franzoni said. “But I think those rough sports actually helped us. Obviously we wanted to win the Big Ten Tournament. But knowing that we didn”t win it and proving that we deserved to win it and deserve to be in the Final Four just makes it even sweeter.”
This weekend will be the last hurrah for five seniors that helped bring the Michigan program to where it is now. When they first arrived, Michigan had not finished in the top three of the Big Ten since 1982, but now the program is on the brink of the ultimate prize.
“I could have never dreamed of a better ending then this being at home, and then going to the Final Four,” senior goalie Maureen Tasch said. “Going into this I know there is no way we can have regrets at the end.”
But despite accomplishing so much, the Wolverines still have the chance to make history.
“It would really, I think, may it extra special to bring home the first one and to have the honor of doing that for the University,” midfielder Molly Powers said. “Just representing the women in the athletic department would be unbelievable.”