A tentative start and an early one-goal deficit quickly turned into a blowout for the Michigan field hockey team yesterday afternoon. The Wolverines completed their weekend sweep of Central Michigan and Ball State with a 5-1 win against the Cardinals.
Ball State jumped out in front early with a drive by senior Allison Haynes past Michigan goalie Molly Maloney just 10:13 into the first half. But the Wolverines didn’t panic.
“No matter what, we have confidence in ourselves that we can come back, especially with our offensive talent,” said senior Molly Powers. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t score. We knew it was just a matter of time. We needed to pick up the tempo and the communication.”
April Fronzoni made sure that Michigan’s patience and confidence paid off. The junior forward managed to deflect a ball off of a Ball State defender and passed goalie Susan McDowell to tie the game at one. Powers then added a tally just a minute later to put Michigan in front for good.
But even with her team leading, Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz refused to let the Wolverines ease up. She used a timeout midway through the first half to make sure that they continued to execute.
“She told us that we can’t be satisfied with a 2-1 score,” Powers said. “We need to continue working hard, to get to the ball first and all of those types of things.”
It’s not the first time Michigan has started slowly during the second game of a two-game weekend. Last week, the Wolverines had trouble with Wake Forest after their 2-0 shutout of North Carolina. Michigan gave up a goal 12 minutes into the game against the Demon Deacons and never recovered.
The Wolverines were conscious of that following Saturday’s win. After the 5-0 victory, Fronzoni said that they had be aware of the type of mental lapses that occurred against Wake Forest to prevent them from happening in the future.
Despite that sentiment though, Pankratz felt that the team wasn’t loose enough to start yesterday’s game.
“(We were) trying to be very safe and to do everything right, instead of just relaxing and playing hard,” Pankratz said. “So we kind of got organized and got our feet under ourselves and started to play a little bit tougher as the game went along.”
Part of the Wolverines slow start could also be attributed to Ball State’s conservative style of defense. The Cardinals sent almost all of their players back into their own circle to protect the net. At times, Michigan found it difficult to find enough space to maneuver.
“It’s hard to get a shot off when there’s a stick within a yard of you no matter where you go,” Powers said.
Ohio State employed a similar strategy against the Wolverines last season with a good amount of success. The Buckeyes were able to hold Michigan to just one goal in two games – both Ohio State victories.
But once the Wolverines relaxed yesterday, they dominated play. Michigan finished with 15 more shots than Ball State, while outscoring the Cardinals 3-0 in the second half.
Powers opened that onslaught with her second tally of the game. She redirected a Fronzoni shot passed McDowell to give Michigan a 3-1 lead. After the game, Powers was quick to credit her teammate for the goal.
“April just made a really scrappy play. She brought the ball in all the way from outside the circle and I just finished on it. It was a great effort on her part.”
It was a strong finish to a busy weekend for Michigan. Pankratz hopes that her team can learn from having games on consecutive days early in the season.
“It’s good practice,” Pankratz said. “It’s good to play back-to-back because you have to do that in the first round of the NCAA tournament.”