Michigan downs Indiana, 3-0, for second straight title
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The sun peaked through rain clouds long enough for two of the Big Ten Conference's most dominant field hockey teams to meet in the Big Ten Tournament final Sunday. No. 2 Indiana entered its first-ever championship game, while No. 4 Michigan looked to defend its 2004 tournament title. The Wolverines used a 3-0 halftime lead to stifle the Hoosiers' momentum from a breakthrough season and claim its fourth conference tournament title. Despite an onslaught of offensive opportunities in the second half, the Hoosiers' efforts never drew a flinch from Michigan's staunch defense. The Wolverines used a 3-0 halftime lead to stifle the Hoosiers' momentum from a breakthrough season.
The Hoosiers tried fiercely to battle back from the early deficit, but the Wolverines were relentless in their title run. The Hoosiers out cornered the Wolverines 9-2, but Michigan's all-time winningest goal, Beth Riley, made seven stops en route to the victory.
The Wolverines didn't waste any time in their bid for a second-straight tournament crown. In the first minute, Michigan freshman Erin Dallas drove deep into Indiana territory after a steal, dashing past Hoosier defenders to draw Indiana goalie Haley Exner out of the net. Exner bit on Dallas' path, and Dallas' flicked a shot past her to put the Wolverines up 1-0. The goal marked Dallas' second of the tournament and 10th of the season.
In the 22nd minute, the Wolverines struck again. After drawing their first corner of the game, Lucia Belassi tipped in a scoring shot off a pass from Kara Lentz. Belassi's eighth goal of the season gave Michigan a 2-0 lead, which proved to be plenty of insurance through the first half for the Wolverines' inpenetrable defense.
The Hoosiers threatened early when Nikki Orciuch took her first scoring attempt after only 40 seconds had expired. Riley came up with a huge save to keep the Hoosiers scoreless.
After Michigan's first score, Indiana struggled to break through Michigan's line of protection but another scoring opportunity loomed on their second penalty corner. Big Ten Player of the Year Kayla Bashore took the push-in from Frederique Meeuwsen and drove it into the striking circle for a stinging shot at the goal. It ricocheted off the post and back into Michigan possession.
With less than three minutes left in the half, Nikki Orciuch made a fast break toward the Wolverines' goal, but her shot never came close to the net, sailing wide right and keeping the Wolverines' lead intact. Michigan's Mary Fox padded the lead heading into the half with an unassisted score from the right of the cage at the 33 second mark. Fox's fourth goal of the year stretched Michigan's lead to 3-0.
Despite the teams' even 3-3 shots-on-goal totals at the half, Michigan was the only squad capitalizing. The efficient Wolverines converted all three shots for scores, and for only the third time all season, Indiana entered the break trailing on the scoreboard.
After a spectacular year of firsts for the Hoosiers, the tournament title was just out of reach. The Hoosiers made program history with their first championship appearance, highest tournament seeding and winningest season. Ranked eighth in the country, Indiana's record fell to 16-4.
The 10th-ranked Wolverines advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second straight year after edging out top-seeded and sixth-ranked Penn State, 2-1, in the semifinals. In a rematch of the 2004 tournament final, the Wolverines topped Iowa, 3-2, in the first round Friday.
At the end of the contest, the 2005 Big Ten All-Tournament team was announced with the following players being honored: Mallory Reabold and Morgan Albini of Indiana, Lauren Pfeiffer of Iowa, Riley and Hillman of Michigan, Michigan State's Christina Kirkaldy, Northwestern's Cassie Miller, Lucy Clayton and Florencia Stier of Ohio State, and Bekah Hostetler and Sara Cahill of Penn State. Hillman earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second-straight year.
With the win, the Wolverines improved to 15-7 and claimed the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. CSTV will air the championship game Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m.