Entering the second half Sunday afternoon, it seemed as if the Michigan women’s lacrosse team was set for a comeback. Scoring just over a minute into the stanza, junior midfielder Anna Schueler slotted a free-position shot into the twine. But High Point still led, 7-5.
The Wolverines continued their dominance for the next few minutes, picking up a turnover on their ride and holding the ball in their attacking end.
They quickly lost their momentum, though, after the Panthers called a timeout just 10 minutes into the half. Twelve seconds after the break, High Point slid the ball past freshman goalie Mira Shane to extend its lead to three.
Holding the momentum for the remainder of the game, the Panthers pulled out an 11-6 victory on their home turf.
“To High Point’s credit, they came off of a tough loss on Friday, and I think that really focused them coming into this game on Sunday,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla. “They played very, very well and very hard with a lot of passion. They outplayed us.”
The Michigan defense had its work cut out for them, with the ball in its defensive end for the majority of the game. Desperate for possession, the Wolverines used their agility and stamina to their advantage, enforcing a high-pressure backer defense led by junior midfielder Kim Coughlan.
Coughlan, staying closer to the eight-meter arc, acted as a back-up in case her fellow defenders were beat in their high-pressure situations. Though the defensive setup worked on occasion – forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over and take low-percentage shots – it wasn’t enough for a Wolverine rally.
“We tried to get into (a backer defense) a few times in the first half,” Ulehla said. “At halftime, we put in a higher-pressure ride and a backer defense, but we just didn’t execute very well.”
It didn’t help that three of Michigan’s goals were taken away due to illegal-stick penalties. Schueler, who had two of her goals taken away, explained that with wet, rainy conditions, it is easy for the stringing of the pockets to loosen.
“It’s tough in that weather,” Ulehla added. “At any given time, if you score a goal, and the ball happens to be in your stick and pushed down a little more, the ball comes out illegal, but it’s still not an excuse. We had some great goals, and it’s a momentum killer.”
Michigan points to their lack of energy and competitiveness throughout the game as blame for the loss. Along with these aspects, the Wolverines continue to search for consistency as the season progresses.
Michigan came out hard to start the game, taking a 2-0 lead early. Entering halftime, though, the Panthers had 18 shots on goal, while the Wolverines had just six. High Point was also up 17-9 on groundballs, a statistic that often points toward effort.
“It’s just the little things we didn’t have,” Schueler said. “It’s really unfortunate, but today just wasn’t our day. We’re just disappointed in our competitiveness overall for the game. That’s really all you can say about it. They were a better team, and we’re disappointed we didn’t come out as fired up as we needed to be.”
After three road games, Michigan returns with its first matchup at Michigan Stadium on Friday. With nearly a week to practice, the Wolverines look to work on their team dynamic and discipline by going back to the basics.
“The focus is going to be on us this week,” Ulehla said. “We’re going to get this team refocused and we’re going to stay positive. We have a lot of talent and a lot of season left, so we’ll regroup this week and we’ll be ready to go in the Big House for our first outing there. We’re really looking forward to it.”