As No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-1 Big Ten, 9-3 overall) ran out the clock to clinch a thrilling 10-9 victory, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team was slowly forced to accept the realization that its chances of advancing to its first Big Ten Tournament would have to remain a dream for yet another season.
The Wolverines battled back from three-goal deficits on two separate occasions, failing to secure the biggest home win of Michigan coach Kevin Conry's inaugural season despite showing tremendous fight all game long. While the loss would have been difficult to stomach regardless, it stings even more as it marks the final time that the nine-player senior class will play in Ann Arbor.
“Starting freshman year, you never think this day is gonna come,” said senior Chase Young. “But when that clock finally hits triple zeroes, you take it all in and (I’m) just really appreciative of what I’ve done and what this university’s done for me and how far I’ve come.”
Young certainly made his mark on the program in his four years with the Wolverines. The defensive midfielder earned Freshman of the Year honors during his first season in 2015 and became a leader on and off the field this past season when he was voted team captain. Young’s stats took a major leap in Conry’s new system, scoring 12 goals and notching 5 assists. He carved out a greater role for himself on the offensive side of the ball and cemented himself as a formidable weapon.
“Getting on the offensive side of the ball, (Coach Conry) gave me a shot and I ran with it, and it just stuck," Young said. "I was able to produce. Credit to all my teammates and them giving me looks and being able to create themselves. It opens the game up a lot for me."
Young had one of the game’s biggest plays late in the game when he assisted on junior midfielder Brent Noseworthy’s equalizer with 1:04 left in regulation. Despite the late score seemingly forecasting overtime, Michigan’s fate was sealed after a penalty on the faceoff led the Blue Jays to break the tie on a man-up goal with 31 seconds left.
Even in the loss, senior goaltender Tommy Heidt was excellent — putting forth a 12-save performance against one of the nation’s better offensive teams.
“Obviously it’s sad, but we’re gonna go out on a high note next Saturday,” Heidt said, alluding to the Wolverines’ season finale on Saturday against Penn State.
Even though this year’s squad was unable to clinch the first Big Ten tournament appearance in school history, it would be hard to label this season a failure. With a win over perennial powerhouse Notre Dame on the road and Chase Young being selected with the 35th pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft by the Denver Outlaws—the highest a Wolverine has ever been selected—it appears that the best is yet to come under Conry. Even with a bright future, however, the first-year coach is focusing on the task at hand rather than looking towards next season.
“Changing a culture is a day by day process,” Conry said. “We’re actually more excited about this week coming up. We may be mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten tourney, but we’re still gonna develop these guys and send them off on a high note.”
Added Young: “The foundation that we were able to build — he set a great culture here and you can tell this program is so close to making that jump and making it to the Big Ten Tournament."
Only time will tell when Michigan is able to make that jump, but it is clear that this incredible senior class has helped lay the foundation for what could be a rebirth for this up-and-coming program.