After tearing through 11 straight wins, the Michigan field hockey team finally stumbled this weekend, suffering its first loss to an unranked opponent all year.

The Wolverines finished its regular season Sunday by beating Stanford, but not before losing to California Saturday.

No. 4 Michigan (14-5) played back-to-back games in California and suffered its first shutout loss, losing 1-0 to the Golden Bears. Just one day later, the Wolverines came back from the setback by defeating Stanford (9-7-1) in a 6-0 shutout.

Last week, Michigan clinched the Big Ten Championship outright when it completed its perfect 6-0 conference play by defeating Northwestern. Before Saturday, Michigan had won 11 straight games. Its last loss came on Sept. 9 against No. 3 Connecticut.

Although California was unranked, Michigan coach Nancy Cox called the Golden Bears (10-5) a “formidable opponent” and said the Wolverines’ performances over the weekend were different from each other.

“We had a lot of quality opportunities, but we were never quite able to finish up what we had to do,” Cox said. “We had difficulty getting going in the first 20 minutes of the first half of Saturday’s game, and in the second half, we turned the match around, but we had difficulty setting up a goal. Sunday, we got much better, but these games just showed the difference of a full effort for 70 minutes.”

Michigan’s top performers during Sunday’s shutout game were senior co-captains Lucia Belassi and Kristen Tiner and sophomore Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Belassi and Tiner each tallied goals. Fitzpatrick had two goals and two shots on goal. Fitzpatrick also scored the game-winning goals against Central Michigan in overtime and against Northwestern to help the team earn the outright Big Ten title.

“Kelly has been finishing more opportunities and getting stronger with every game,” Cox said.

Belassi’s contributions this season and over her entire career can’t be understated. She has now played in 84 games and made 49 consecutive starts for Michigan.

“She is a warrior on and off the field,” Cox said. “Our program is about character and her character has always been all about the team from the time she came in as a freshman to her time as a team captain.”

With its regular season now complete, the team will begin the Big Ten Tournament this Friday in Columbus. The top-seeded Wolverines were granted a first-round bye and will play against the winner of the Penn State-Ohio State match Friday.

For much of the season, Michigan has tried to approach games with an underdog attitude, but that attitude will not work this weekend.

“The California game taught us that your reputation doesn’t win you games, and we have to remember that for the tournament,” Fitzpatrick said.

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