The Michigan State Spartans women’s field hockey team had a difficult 2021 spring season. The team ended the year with a record of just 2-14 overall, going 1-6 at home, 0-6 on the road, and 1-2 at neutral sites. All Big Ten teams played a conference-only schedule this past season, with two games in Virginia Beach, Virginia, six home games and six away games.
The Spartans started the season with three preseason All-Big Ten selections. Seniors Cara Bonshak and Meredith Ross, and junior Merel Hanssen were the three selections.
Unfortunately for Michigan State, the season had a rough start. Opening losses in Virginia Beach to Maryland on Feb. 26, by a score of 0-2, and to Northwestern on Feb. 27, by a score of 1-3, started the season off on a sour note.
Michigan State turned it around with the season’s home opener against Indiana in game three of the 2021 season, however. A dominating shot advantage of 12 for the Spartans to just one for the Hoosiers set the Spartans up for the 2-0 shutout win over Indiana on March 7. Junior goalkeeper Jade Arundell recorded her sixth career shutout, although she only was given the opportunity for a single save all game long. Freshman Emma O’Neill scored her first career goal for MSU at the 7:59 mark of the first quarter on an assist rom junior Lia Sinisi. Then in the third quarter, Isa van der Weij scored her second goal of the season. A deflected shot found her at the 42:21 mark and she was able to put it back for the final score of the game.
Following the win over the Hoosiers, the Spartans would go winless through the remainder of the regular season schedule. The closest Michigan State got to snapping the losing streak came in a 2-4 loss at Ohio State on April 9 and in a 2-3 home loss to Indiana on April 15.
Despite the tough loss to the Hoosiers, Michigan State drew the eight-seed against ninth seeded Indiana in the opening round of the Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament hosted by Iowa. The Spartans managed a 4-2 win to advance to face Michigan. The victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for MSU.
Michigan State had a 20 to 13 shots advantage, and a 13 to seven shots on goal advantage in this contest. Two goals for the Spartans in the first quarter gave MSU a great start. Celina Riccardo scored off a penalty corner at 13:12. Sophomore Merel Hanssen made the initial shot on goal to set the score up, but she was deflected. Riccardo scored from the left side around 10 feet out to give Michigan State a 1-0 lead.
The next goal also came from Riccardo, this time at the 24th minute. A penalty corner saw freshman Emma O’Neill making a pair of shots that were saved, but resulted in a penalty stroke award being given to MSU. Riccardo took the shot and scored to stretch the lead to 2-0. The Hoosiers cut it back to within one on a goal in the 38th minute.
MSU was able to stretch the lead back to two after a series of shots started by Isa van der Weij from a penalty corner. Hanssen added two more shots, but then managed to pick up a loose ball in front of the cage and scored on her third attempt to make it 3-1 at the 39:35 mark. Then another penalty stroke for MSU, this one by senior Meredith Ross at the 50:38 mark would give MSU its final goal of the day, and a 4-1 lead.
Indiana managed a late score in the fourth at the 51:54 mark, but couldn’t get any closer than 4-2 in the end. Junior goalkeeper Jade Arndell finished the day with five stops. MSU’s 20 shots on goal was a season-high, as was the four-goal performance.
The season promptly ended in the quarterfinals after a 1-3 loss to the Wolverines on April 21. The Wolverines were the top-seed of the conference in the tournament, and ranked No. 7 in the nation. On the bright side, Michigan State managed to get on the scoreboard this time, unlike the back-to-back 0-3 shutout losses to Michigan during the regular season.
Despite the struggles on the field, the team did well in the classroom, earning Academic Team Honors for the 16th straight season.