Aug 29, 2013
Head coach Marcia Pankratz sat down for a question-and-answer series this week as his team puts the final touches on preparation for the 2013 season, which commences Saturday (Aug. 31) against No. 14 Massachusetts.
On the expectations for this year's team ... "I think every year the expectations of our team and every Michigan student-athlete is to do the right thing, have great character and work as hard as you can. Those are the basics, and when you abide by those basic principles, I think a lot of good things can happen. The goals for our team this year are to win the Big Ten championship in the regular season and the tournament -- that's an expectation every year -- and to make the Final Four to put ourselves in a position to win an NCAA championship."
On the biggest challenges for the upcoming season ... "There's great competition in the Big Ten and in the country, especially with the influx of Maryland joining the conference next year. That will continue to be a major challenge. We want our team to play at the highest level on a daily basis. I want them to know that they're good enough to be at the Final Four. No one on this team has ever been to the Final Four. But they need to expect it and know that we can do it if we work hard every single day."
On players to watch this season ... "Rachael Mack is a goal scorer, and she has scored some remarkable goals over her career. Not only is she extremely skilled, but she's also the hardest-working player on the team. It's always fun to a hard-working player. I think Ainsley McCallister is going to have a big year. She just came off playing in the Junior World Cup. She'll be in the middle of our field as the anchor of our team. Lauren Thomas is a skilled, mature, polished player in the backfield. She's our foundation back there."
On field hockey in the Big Ten ... "The Big Ten is really the most competitive conference -- along with the ACC -- and I think there's going to be a tremendous amount of parity this season. Northwestern is on the rise; they've got a great coach and a good team. Penn State is athletic and fast. Iowa is always really disciplined. Michigan State is a big rival, as is Ohio State, and they have some talented players. Every team is very strong. It is, top to bottom, the strongest conference. That's exciting and a lot of fun. It makes it challenging but rewarding."
On the must-see home events of the season ... "We've got some good, tough Big Ten games at home this season. Iowa corresponds with homecoming and our alumni weekend, so that's an important weekend for us. Penn State is a huge marquee game. They nipped us last year, 4-3, on their home field. They play very well on their home field, so getting them here will be an advantage. Obviously, we want fans to see all of our home games, but those are two big ones."
On the style fans should expect from Michigan field hockey ... "They should expect that Michigan will outwork all of its opponents. We play an up-tempo, fast-paced game, and we have some depth, so we can substitute a lot on the fly. We are quick-passing oriented and, hopefully for us, high scoring."