Minutes left. Tie game. Loose ball.
The opportunity was there for the taking. Everyone scrambled after the ball but the Trojans got to it first, scooped it up and seconds later, the ball was in the back of the net.
Missed opportunities were a common theme for the No. 9 Michigan women’s lacrosse team (1-1) in its 10-8 loss to No. 16 Southern California (2-0) on Saturday.
“We’re disappointed, obviously,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “It’s just fine-tuning and some tactical things that need to be cleaned up.”
The Wolverines raced out to a quick lead against the Trojans with two goals from junior midfielder Maggie Kane.
But the run was short lived: USC scored twice within seconds of each other to tie the game right back up.
Just before the nine-minute mark, junior attacker Claire Muir found senior midfielder Nadine Stewart open in front of the net to recapture the lead. One minute later, senior attacker Lilly Grass caught a pass down low, worked her way around the goaltender and dropped in a shot to extend the lead to 4-2.
“Our offensive unit was ready to go,” Kane said. “We did well and we executed when we needed to.”
After a frenetic start, the defenses settled in. Both teams went nearly 15 minutes without a goal. Then Michigan once again saw its lead disappear. The Trojans’ Kerrigan Miller poured in two goals to tie it at four just before the half.
The Wolverines started the second half the same as the first. Sophomore midfielder Erin Garvey picked up a bouncing ball in front of the net and sent a rocket into the top corner to regain the lead just a minute in.
The teams traded goals. Then Muir took a ball from behind the net, shook the defender and scored to make it 7-5 — the Wolverines’ third two-goal lead of the game.
And for a third time, the lead vanished.
A USC free-position shot cut the lead to 7-6, then the Trojans tied it with seven minutes left. Shortly after USC’s Erin Baker fired one in from distance to move ahead, 8-7.
“In the future, I think we need to make smart decisions,” Kane said. “(To) keep (the lead) for the whole game is something that we have to work on.”
Michigan still had work to do.
With three-and-a-half minutes left, Kane cut in, caught a pass from Muir, and ripped one home just inside the right post to even things up at eight. After scoring her third goal of the day, she emphatically threw down her stick and her teammates surrounded her.
“She’s incredible,” Nielsen said. “Just the hustle and the effort. (She) played like a leader.”
The pressure rose as the clock ticked under three minutes. The Wolverines’ defense knocked the ball loose from a USC attacker. It bounced around and ended up back in the Trojans’ possession. The ball swung around and then Izzy McMahon darted in and scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
The Wolverines lost the ensuing faceoff and watched two minutes bleed off the clock. Junior goaltender Allie Newsman abandoned her goal in a desperate attempt to get the ball back, but to no avail. The Trojans sent it into the empty net with thirty seconds left to make it 10-8.
Just like that, Michigan had lost a winnable game.
The Wolverines still took some positives from the showdown. They were strong defensively and showed a lot of physicality throughout. They now shift their focus to upcoming games against Louisville and Colorado this weekend.
“It’s only game two of the season,” Nielsen said. “There’s room for growth from here.”