The Michigan women’s field hockey team didn’t leave Ohio completely winless this weekend, but it did lose its marquee matchup of the roadtrip.
No. 11 Michigan’s four-game winning streak came to an end in Columbus on Friday afternoon in its conference opener against Ohio State.
An early Buckeye goal set the pace for the game, but senior midfielder Bryn Bain’s equalizer midway through the first half put Michigan back in the contest.
The Wolverines (0-1 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) had difficulty converting any of its shots into goals, and Ohio State’s goalie Ally Tunitis blocked the few that managed to come close to the net. With the game set to go into overtime, the Buckeyes scored in the last minute and a half — with it went any hopes of a Michigan comeback.
“Ohio State is a very talented team and we didn’t connect very well together,” Bain said. “We couldn’t link our passes, and I think we’re a much better team than what we showed Ohio State.”
For the players, the game against the Buckeyes always has an increased level of excitement attached to it. To have a streak broken by the Buckeyes was a sobering reality.
“Winning streaks just give a team a lot of pressure,” Bain said. “It may have been better to break that streak earlier in the season. It prepares us more for other Big Ten matches.”
But Michigan returned to form in Saturday’s 5-1 blowout over Miami (Ohio).
Bain set the tone for the Wolverines with a goal less than two minutes in, and freshman midfielder Axelle Wouters followed suit with another goal exactly a minute later. The combination of a rapid succession of Michigan goals and a key save by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Haley Jones crippled the RedHawks for the remainder of the game.
“Scoring early set the tone (and it was) incredibly important,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz. “If you get those girls early, you can relax while still putting pressure on.”
This was Michigan’s fourth game this season in which it walked away with a dominant victory. A strong offensive attack has been the backbone for the Wolverines, evidenced by the four different players who scored against Miami. Among them was redshirt freshman backfielder Leslie Smith. Although Smith is usually a defensive player, Pankratz took advantage of her versatility and moved her forward for the second time this year.
“Leslie gives the team great depth,” Pankratz said. “She gives quality minutes in a multitude of positions and those minutes contribute greatly to the team’s success. She can change the game with her skills and quality pressure.”
The Wolverines will stay in Ann Arbor next weekend for two games — one against No. 13 Iowa and the other a scrimmage against Michigan field hockey alumnae. Although Panktraz’s focus will be on figuring out how to best contain a strong Hawkeye offense, the players know they have to concentrate on keeping their play at a consistent level in order to move forward in the season.
“I think if we play Michigan field hockey and stay true to how we play and not play to other people’s levels, we’ll do just fine,” Bain said.