Coming into the final matchup of its Spring Break trip, the Michigan women’s lacrosse team was pumped. After victories against both Canisius and San Diego State, the Wolverines had the momentum and the preparation needed to come out on top against Southern California.
They knew it was going to be a tough game, as the 11th-ranked Trojans had recently taken down national powerhouse Duke. They knew of the Trojans’ athleticism, as many Michigan players were up against former teammates. They even knew about their competitors’ compact zone defense, but they also knew how to break it.
“We had our heads on straight and were just excited to play as a team,” said junior goalie Allison Silber.
This excitement, though, was short-lived.
Starting out strong, junior Tess Korten hit twine just two minutes into the game on a right-handed roll dodge. The Trojans then responded with five unanswered goals, and went on to win, 13-4.
“We had a great game plan, and I thought the team was as prepared as possible and ready to get out there to compete for 60 minutes,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla. “Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened. (USC) found some holes, and we kind of lost our way.”
Entering halftime down 9-2, the Wolverines had to regroup. They saw moments of genius — where they spread the Trojans’ zone and moved the ball quickly — and hoped to see more of them.
Upping the energy level, Michigan took the field for the second half with a newfound intensity, holding USC scoreless for the first 13 minutes. With Silber at the wheel, the Wolverines’ defense began to click.
“(The defense) was really there for each other on the slides. There was constant communication,” Silber said. “I would tell them to slide when they needed to, and they came and rode with their bodies when they needed to to really hold out USC.”
Such turnaround didn’t happen all over the field, though, resulting in a blowout loss for Michigan.
“(Our defense) gave us the opportunity to put more goals on the scoreboard, but unfortunately we just didn’t execute our game plan offensively,” Ulehla said.
Coming off last season, when the Wolverines lost five games by one goal, the team looked to improve its consistency. And though Michigan has recognized growth in its play since then, consistency remains a key issue.
“I wouldn’t say there was anything new we learned from today,” Ulehla said. “It’s just more that we need to work on a consistent mentality, energy level and discipline to play and stick to the game plan we had going in. When you play a nationally ranked program, you have to stick to the game plan and really be disciplined with it in order to be successful.”
And with more nationally ranked opponents in their future, the Wolverines will have to do just that.