After a 20-9 defeat against Maryland on Feb. 20, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team looked to even the season series on Saturday.
Against the nation’s second-ranked squad, Michigan needed a fast start to assert itself and send Maryland a message that it came to play. That message was delivered early by the Wolverines as they jumped to a 5-0 lead seven minutes into the game. Michigan’s quick start saw it play its best team lacrosse all season, forcing the Terrapins into their largest deficit of the year.
But then it fell apart. The Wolverines (2-6 Big Ten) failed to finish, falling 18-12 to No. 2 Maryland (8-0).
It didn’t take long before the Terrapins flipped the switch. They proceeded to go on a blistering 16-0 scoring run while flexing their defensive mettle, holding the Wolverines’ offense off the scoreboard for 27 minutes.
“We’ve got to stop the runs,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “The most important thing that we can do is come out of the third quarter with some fire. … If you’re not dialed in 100% of the time — and the most disciplined team on the field, the most physical team on the field, the most attentive to all the details — you will lose. We lost because we gave up those runs.”
During that run, Maryland maintained possession and kept the ball out of the Wolverines’ hands. Michigan began the game with a 9-2 shot differential. By the time the game ended, though, Maryland dominated in shots, outpacing the Wolverines 39-23.
“We gave them an outlet, and we allowed them to find out who they were again: The No. 2 team in the country,” Conry said. “When you play Maryland, and if you want to beat them, you have to over execute for sixty minutes. And in that twenty-seven minutes, they had the ball and we couldn’t make a stop. Maryland was over executing, and we were not meeting our standards.”
Michigan appeared to regain momentum late in the game by going on a 7-2 run, but the Terrapins’ earlier burst proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome.
Maryland’s offensive surge was keyed by arguably the best player in the country in senior attackman Jared Bernhardt. During its 16-0 scoring run, Bernhardt netted five goals while assisting on two others. His off-ball presence made it very difficult for defenders to predict his move.
“He’s one of the best players in the country for a reason,” junior defenseman Andrew Darby said. “He is an unbelievable player, and he works really hard. Going up against him is definitely a good learning experience for us. We tried different things to stop him. I love to play against players that good because it can only make you better.”
Key contributors to this game included junior attackman Bryce Clay, who knotted a hat trick and an assist, and sophomore attackman Josh Zawada, who tallied two goals and three assists for the day.
On Saturday, the Wolverines hung with one of the nation’s best programs. Despite a valiant effort, Conry’s squad will need far more than moral victories as the season reaches its apex.