While 11 of 25 players are true freshman and there’s just one senior for the No. 10 Michigan field hockey team, Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz wasn’t hesitant to “throw (the freshmen) in the deep end” at the beginning of the season.
“I’ve been so happy with how they’ve been playing,” Pankratz said. “They’re just doing great, really growing every single match (and) learning new stuff and getting better and better.”
After the Wolverines (2-2) fought through two tough losses last weekend to ranked Atlantic Coast Conference teams, they bounced back at home to beat Delaware and No. 22 Maine — much of it due to the youngsters’ performances.
Freshman midfielder Shannon Scavelli tallied her first career goal against the Black Bears (1-4) almost 15 minutes into the first half on a redirected shot from a penalty corner. Scavelli was a leading scorer on her high school squad, but with a move from forward to midfield due to injuries, she had to adjust to a team mindset of play.
“I knew in college it was going to be completely different, stepping up,” she said. “I’ve been playing midfield a lot more, but it’s great to get out there, a team effort. (Junior forward Rachael) Mack gave me a great pass, and it’s just the simple thing of touching it in.”
But it wasn’t just Scavelli propelling the team to its 2-0 shutout. The four freshman who started Sunday’s game against Maine accounted for three of the 10 total shots the Wolverines had.
Senior forward Leisl Morris is impressed with how the rookies are playing and adjusting to collegiate play.
“For these girls, our structure is very complicated,” Morris said. “We’re talking national level of play. That’s hard to catch on to. Every single game we get better. Our outlet, or press just becomes crisp and detailed and we get faster.
“(They’re) just rocking the midfield and very confident with the ball. It’s hard to get a lot of freshman out of that shy bubble. They have loved it. (Scavelli’s) goal just solidifies it.”
While almost half of the team is freshmen, the rest of the squad isn’t so experienced. The Wolverines elected to name four captains, in lieu of just one senior, to lead the team — in fact, there’s only one senior on the team in total.
“I like (having multiple captains),” Pankratz said. “The captains, they’re young players. They’re doing a great job. It makes them a little easier to lead.”
Scavelli agreed, noting that though the captains are young as well, they have helped the freshmen accommodate to the different style of play at the collegiate level.
For her personally, though, she said she’s still getting used to the tougher play.
“I’m still adjusting,” Scavelli said. “It’s definitely a different pace, but one game at a
time. The older girls are really helpful. (The captains) are all so welcoming, you can ask them
questions, they’re easy to talk to.
“(The game) is a lot faster. In high school we used to play 30 minute halves, and our
coaches have been talking about the last 5 minutes each half of the game — they’re really
But Morris said she has confidence in the freshmen.
“It’s so exciting, I’m so proud of them,” she said. “I just keep getting a little more surprised because I have a lot of confidence in them. What they’ve been showing is just remarkable for their age. Coming from HS to college, just completely stepped it up. They were a little nervous at (North Carolina), but it’s very impressive.”