The Michigan field hockey team began its season by losing to the top three teams in the nation within one week. But now it’s the Wolverines who are punishing their opponents.
Michigan (10-4) defeated Kent State yesterday 3-1 to extend its winning streak to eight games.
“That tough start prepared us for the matches that we’re now playing,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said. “Opening the season with the top three teams in the country is the best way to start at Michigan. You learn quickly what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is a group of young women who have embraced that start and learned from it.”
Sophomore Kelly Fitzpatrick opened the game by scoring on Michigan’s first shot on goal just 32 seconds into the game.
Kent State (9-5) tied the game 19 minutes later, but junior Stephanie Hoyer’s goal helped Michigan regain the lead with time winding down in the first half.
Fitzpatrick added an insurance goal midway through the second half for her second career multi-goal game.
During its eight-game win streak, Michigan has not allowed more than two goals in any match. That continued yesterday with another stellar performance by goaltender Paige Pickett and a stingy Michigan defense. The Wolverines’ backfield allowed just four shots on goal.
“With every match, Paige Pickett is getting stronger, and she is reading the play better,” Cox said. “But more importantly, it’s the 10 defenders in front of her who have made a marked improvement. We’re not allowing as many corners and our defensive footwork continues to improve.”
Midway through the season, Michigan has discovered its depth is a key asset. The Wolverines used 16 of its 22 players yesterday.
“(Our depth) is helpful at practice,” Cox said. “We can hold an 11-on-11 scrimmage and know that it’s going to be high-quality field hockey.”
Those practices have paid dividends in the weeks following Michigan’s rough start, and the progress has shown on the field.
“Everyone is contributing,” Cox said. “I think that we’ve done a nice job of giving a lot of players a lot of playing time. It speaks to the depth of this program that we’re playing 16 deep.”
The Wolverines will attempt to use that depth to their advantage and win their ninth straight game when they face Big Ten foe Indiana (6-6) at home on Friday.
The Hoosiers have lost five of their last seven games.