For the Michigan field hockey team, this season has produced many tremendous feats. The Wolverines broke the school record for consecutive victories, set a new mark for shutouts in a season, and captured nearly every award at the Big Ten banquet.

Although it stumbled last weekend against Michigan State in the conference tournament final, Michigan still garnered the regular-season title outright with an unblemished record.

Now, just one challenge remains for the Wolverines – defending their national championship.

With the best teams in the country vying for the same prize, repeating would certainly be an incredible achievement for Michigan.

“I think there are a lot of hot teams out there right now,” junior Stephanie Johnson said. “We just need to try and stay within our team and look at the positive things we’re bringing to each team.

“We’re just really going out there with the mindset that adversity happens, and we’re looking forward to embracing it and overcoming those obstacles to try and repeat.”

Michigan’s first step toward defending its title comes tomorrow morning in State College, where the Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 18-3 overall) will face Princeton (7-0 Ivy Group, 11-5) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Last year, Michigan defeated Princeton 4-2 in the semifinals en route to the national championship. But the Tigers retained every player from last year’s squad, putting them right back in the national spotlight.

“We know their personnel really well because they don’t have anybody new,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “They’re a great team; they’ve got remarkable players, and it will be quite a test for us. But, if we want to go to the Final Four, then we have to play the best to get there.”

Michigan will also need to have strong offensive production if it hopes to make the semifinals next weekend in Louisville. Junior April Fronzoni and senior Molly Powers have been the Wolverines’ dynamic duo all season with 18 and 15 goals respectively, but they were thwarted by the Spartans in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat.

“There’s definitely a little pressure coming into these big games because you’re a forward, and you’re the one that’s supposed to put in the goals,” Fronzoni said. “But, pressure is going to come in whatever sport you play. It just depends on how you handle it, and right now we’re handling it pretty well.”

Should Michigan get by Princeton in the first round, it would meet the winner of the game between Penn State and Kent State for the right to go to the Final Four.

With its season on the line every game from now on, Michigan will have to extend its patented physical play into the tournament.

“The toughness that we carry amongst ourselves is awesome,” Fronzoni said. “Knowing that we’re the defending national champions and everyone is going to bring their ‘A’ game and want to knock us off is another factor that goes into everything. If we just play U-M hockey, no one is going to stop us, and we’re just going to go right back to where we were last year.”

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