After winning both exhibition games last weekend, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team suffered a tough 11-6 loss to No. 15 Penn State (1-0) to begin its regular season on Saturday.
The Wolverines (0-1) almost matched the Nittany Lions step for step for almost the first 20 minutes, while each team tallied just one goal apiece. However, Penn State used a 9-2 run that spanned 18 minutes and 21 seconds in the second half to pull away from the Wolverines.
“Right now it’s frustrating, obviously,” said senior midfielder Thomas Paras. “I thought we came out well in the first half, but Penn State’s a great team, we give all the credit to them.”
Paras, a team captain for the second consecutive year, helped Michigan stay close early with an assist to freshman attacker Kyle Jackson, who tied the game at one less than two minutes into the second quarter.
But just three minutes later, Penn State’s T.J. Sanders scored his second goal of the game to put the Nittany Lions up 2-1. That tally, the second of Sanders’ four goals, sparked the 9-2 Penn State run that included four goals from Shane Sturgis and two from Jack Forster.
Despite the run, the Wolverines showed some resiliency, answering with three consecutive goals. Paras started the run late in the third quarter with his tally, and sophomore attacker Will Meter and Jackson each scored, as well.
“I think today, we showed glimpses of the type of program we’re going to be this year,” Paras said. “We’re definitely more talented (than last year), we’re just better in all facets of the game and I think we showed that today.”
That bolster to the roster is due in large part to the program’s first-ever recruiting class. One of the highlights of the 23-man class is freshman goalie Gerald Logan, who kicked off his career with 19 saves Saturday.
“Gerry is spectacular,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “He’s a very, very good goalie, but we don’t want to lean on him as heavily. He had one little stretch late when Penn State was hitting the corners and shooting very well, but the guy had 19 saves. I thought he had a great game, one way or the other.”
Logan and Jackson are two of the 20 freshman on the team, which is one of the youngest in the nation. At times against Penn State, the youth of the Wolverines showed and it was up to the veteran players to slow things down.
As a captain, Paras knew he had to be a voice on the field when the game started to creep away from Michigan.
“The seniors have done a great job leading the freshman, we just need to continue to make sure that people aren’t trying to do too much,” Paras said. “It’s a big team effort making sure that we aren’t trying to do things we wouldn’t do in practice.”
The Wolverines were also faced with the challenge of playing without faceoff specialist Brad Lott, a freshman who was unavailable for Saturday’s game. Lott’s absence was not lost on Paul, who saw his team lose 15 of 20 faceoffs to Penn State’s Danny Henneghan.
“I would have loved to see the matchup with Lott,” Paul said. “I think he is capable of making it more of a straight faceoff battle.”
With Lott unavailable, Michigan used freshman Charlie Keady and sophomore Jack Eisenreich in faceoffs against Henneghan.
The loss to Penn State was the first game of the season with Creator’s Trophy implications — the trophy goes to the winner of the head-to-head matchups between the Wolverines, Penn State and Ohio State each year. Michigan will play Ohio State at the Big House on April 13 in the final Creator’s Trophy contest this season.
“(The Creator’s Trophy) is very important to us,” Paul said. “It’s something very special, there’s nothing else like it in college lacrosse. We’d like to get it here in Ann Arbor, and sometime in the near future, we’ll have it here.”
The Wolverines’ next game is on Saturday against Bellarmine in Louisville, Kent. Paul isn’t worried that the Penn State loss will affect his team going forward.
“There’s a lot of resolve without me even saying anything,” Paul said of the postgame locker room. “We’re going to get back on Monday, get the hard hats on, and get to work.
“One strength of this team is they never quit working, we get better as the season goes on.”