It was high temperature and even higher intensity in Costa Mesa, Calif., for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team’s Orange County Winter Invitational. In the end, the Wolverines stormed back in the second half to earn a 10-7 victory over Delaware in front of more than 4,000 fans.
During the first half, it looked like the game could go either way. Both teams were trading goals without establishing a firm lead. Delaware outshot Michigan, 10-7, but goalie Gerald Logan stepped it up with seven saves to keep the Wolverines within a close scoring margin. Down one goal at the start of the second half, the Wolverines were determined to turn up the heat.
In the first few games of the season, Michigan struggled to dominate in the third period, consistently coming up short in ground balls and goals.
“This week, coach (John Paul) put a huge emphasis on winning the third quarter. I think in all of our previous games this year, even the ones we won, we lost the third quarter pretty handily,” said senior attackman Peter Kraus.
However, in the third quarter against Delaware, the Wolverines came out stronger than they had in the first half, outscoring the Blue Hens, 3-1. Kraus, senior attackman Kyle Jackson and freshman Decker Curran recorded goals for the Wolverines, giving them a 7-6 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Judging strictly on goals scored, the game was extremely close until the middle of the fourth quarter. What really made the difference was grit. There’s no doubt execution mistakes were made on the Wolverines’ side. They threw the ball away multiple times offensively, but their mistakes didn’t dictate the game because they hustled to get the ball back on their offensive end.
“That’s another thing that Coach has stressed: Just forget the previous play and keep moving. … Everybody stepped up in that way,” Kraus said.
A large part of Michigan’s success can be attributed to its 10-man ride defensive strategy. When possession switched to Delaware, Michigan worked to have every man covered, which made it difficult for Delaware to execute its clear. Eliminating the open pass made it easier for Michigan to cause turnovers and get the ball back to its offensive end.
Paul was pleased with the success of the 10-man ride throughout the game, especially in the second half. “No question, it was part of the turnaround,” Paul said.
Kyle Jackson, Michigan’s offensive powerhouse, produced four goals for the Wolverines, and Kraus added a hat trick. Curran added a goal and an assist, and Ian King and Sean McCanna added one goal each.
Momentum was high in the fourth quarter, and Michigan took the game away with an additional three goals. Gerald Logan added six more saves in the second half for a total of 13.
“(Delaware’s) possessions and their offense was very disciplined,” Paul said. “They were getting some good shots, and there’s no question (Logan) kept us in it. Late in the game he made a couple kind of ‘Logan spectacular’ saves that really kept that margin and kept that comfort zone for us heading into the home stretch. That’s why he’s so great.”
Traveling all the way out to sunny California and leaving with a victory was an ideal start to Spring Break. Paul and the team know there’s still a lot of work to do throughout the rest of the season, but the work they put in on the West Coast has definitely given them reason for optimism.