By Minh Doan, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 19, 2014
With the hostile away crowd at the Ultimate Arena Soccer in Pontiac, Mich. cheering against him, sophomore faceoff man Brad Lott won his faceoff with two swipes of the stick. Michigan coach John Paul immediately called a timeout so he could set up a play.
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“We wanted to move the defense around and get a quick shot off,” recalled freshman attackman Ian King.
After the timeout ended, the strategy Paul dialed up worked. King found an open look, but he fired wide. Standing behind the net, sophomore midfielder Mike Hernandez retrieved the ball on the reset and improvised as he found a streaking sophomore midfielder Kyle Jackson, who cocked back his stick and ripped a shot. It threaded the needle between two opposing defenders and past the sprawling hand of the goaltender, into the back of the net.
The tally ended the game as the Michigan men’s lacrosse team was victorious over in-state rival Detroit, 14-13, in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.
“All week, our coaches talked about how it was such a big rivalry,” King said. “They expected big things out of us and we delivered.”
The win marked a momentous occasion in program history, as it gave the Wolverines more than one win in a season for the first time ever.
“It’s a very important step for us,” Paul said. “Everything we do is a process and beating Detroit for the first time, getting our second win, going on a win streak and winning a close game are all important steps for us.”
But the win didn’t come easy.
After leading 8-6 at halftime, the Wolverines came out of the gate flat in the second half, and it showed. The Titans went on to score five of the next six goals to end the quarter with an 11-9 lead.
“It got pretty loud when they made their comeback,” Paul said. “It’s a very loud place to play and it created some communication problems for us.”
In years past, Michigan might have wilted and lost the game, but in a season in which it’s trying to prove that it’s a Division I contender, the Wolverines showed their resilience by clawing back.
Behind two goals each from Jackson and King, the Wolverines went up 13-11 with a little over four minutes left to play.
But attacker Alex Maini and midfielder Mike Birney proved why they’re Detroit’s two leading scorers last year and tied the game. Birney scored with just 33 seconds remaining to send the match to overtime where
But, Jackson’s heroics gave Michigan the landmark win.
While scoring runs finished the game, a big Michigan scoring run also started the game. Of the first nine goals, the Wolverines put away seven to open up a commanding 7-2 lead before Detroit countered with scoring runs of their own.
“We just came out fired up to play,” King said. “Obviously, it’s a rivalry and we came out ready to play, and everyone was hitting their shots.”
Overall, eight different Wolverines had points, and six tallied goals. King led the scoring with four goals but was quick to give credit to his teammates for setting him up.
“It’s a team effort, and I just put the ball in the back of the net,” King said. “Don’t forget about the five other players setting me up.”
Another big key to the offense is the faceoff man, and that was no different in this game.
Lott won 22 out of his 30 faceoffs in his first game of the season after being held out the last two games for team-specific reasons.
“Lott was absolutely phenomenal for us tonight,” Jackson said. “We couldn’t have won the game without him. Winning all of his faceoffs means getting us possessions, and without possessions, you can’t win games.”
Before the season, the Wolverines set their sights on the East Coast Athletic Conference championship.
With two wins this early in the season, they are well on their way to achieving that goal.