The Michigan field hockey team got some help from a new rule in a tough win against Ohio State to pull out a 1-0 victory and move on to the semifinals in the Big Ten Tournament.
In the 47th minute, redshirt sophomore midfielder Sammy Gray hit the ball toward the offensive circle. It deflected off a Buckeye defender and into the back of the net, giving Michigan the only goal of the game.
In the past, this would not have counted for a goal, as an offensive player had to have touch the ball in the offensive zone for it to count. But the rule instituted this year makes it so that if the ball deflects off a defensive player in the offensive zone and into the goal, the goal is counted and ruled an own-goal.
Ohio State’s own goal helped the Wolverines secure a lead and play to their strength, which is defense.
“We have a lot of talent on defense,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “We wanted to play plenty of team defense in numbers and have a break-out style of attack.”
The young Michigan team was helped by leadership and a calming presence from their co-captains redshirt junior goalkeeper Hayley Jones and junior forward Rachel Mack. Named to the second team all Big Ten earlier Thursday, Jones posted her second-straight shutout.
Mack made the first team All-Big Ten with her efforts, but brushed aside her own accomplishment when asked about them.
“It’s a great honor to have,” Mack said. “I’m really happy I got that, but I just want to go out there and play with my team, the guys that help me get through.”
The match remained close after the score, but the game started to get more physical as the two teams racked up a total of four cards after the goal.
“(The Buckeyes) were out for blood (after the first goal),” Jones said. “We had to focus, we had to take advantage.”
Pankratz did not attribute the rising tensions to the nature of the goal but rather to the nature of the rivalry.
“It’s Ohio State-Michigan,” Pankratz said. “No matter what score it is, it’s a battle, and both teams are out to win it.”
Michigan was able to stay ahead despite the pressure from Ohio State and the youth of the team. Pankratz attributes that to the team’s attitude.
“They never say die,” Pankratz said. “They play as a team, they stay focused the whole match.”
Michigan will need to keep that focus tomorrow when they face an Indiana team coming off a shocking 4-0 win over second-seeded Northwestern.
“They are going to come out aggressive with a lot of confidence, they are going to come out with fire.” Mack said, “I’m really excited for it.”