With just under two minutes remaining in the game, the Michigan women’s lacrosse team quickly moved the ball around its attacking third of the field in order to drain time from the clock. The Marquette defensive unit was desperate, sprinting outside of the twelve, searching for a turnover. The Wolverines weren’t having it.
When the scoreboard clock hit zero, Michigan defeated the Golden Eagles, 11-8, resulting in its second win of the season. The Wolverines had not showed that control and dominance the entire weekend at Oosterbaan Field House, though.
On Friday evening, the Wolverines walked onto the pitch feeling confident after a close 12-11 loss to a national powerhouse, No. 7 Florida. Perhaps too confident, as they ended up falling to a less-heralded Oregon by the same score.
Michigan planned on implementing a new, high-pressure ride against the Ducks. It was also working on a slightly newer defensive strategy. Neither change clicked as Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla had hoped.
“We didn’t stick to the game plan,” Ulehla said. “We ran a different system that I really am not aware of, and we played as individuals. We took some steps back.”
Both Oregon and Michigan had issues holding onto possession of the ball, resulting in a transition-heavy game.
“Turnovers were bad today,” said junior midfielder Anna Schueler. “We don’t want to get in a track meet every game. But then again, you just kind of have to move forward. You can’t sulk on a loss.”
And though the Wolverines weren’t consistent for the full 60 minutes, there were some positives that stemmed from the Wolverines’ loss to the Ducks.
Junior attacker Jess Angerman scored a team-high four goals, making her the first in Michigan women’s lacrosse history to hit 100 career points. And the team did improve overall as the game progressed. The loss, as seen against Marquette, only lit a fire under the third-year program.
From the first draw on Sunday afternoon, the Wolverines were a different team than they were.
Michigan’s defense worked as a unit, pressuring high on the ball. Players adjacent to the ball were constantly hedging in, preparing for a possible double team.
“It’s a defense we’ve been working on all year, but we were much more effective with it (today),” Ulehla said. “We were much more disciplined. When we do that, we can be very difficult to score on.”
The Wolverines’ defensive conversation and teamwork on the field were loud and consistent, allowing them to easily fluster the Golden Eagles into many mistakes.
The same went for Michigan’s ride – the way the opposing attack and midfield re-defend the ball in order to win it back before it enters their defensive zone. In order for the Wolverines’ new high-pressure ride to work, buying into the game plan is key.
“We were very hesitant (against Oregon), and when you play that kind of high-pressure ride, you can’t be hesitant,” Ulehla said. “You have to really be all in.”
And with the Wolverines’ overwhelming strength and athletic ability, such pressure caused many turnovers. The Wolverines capitalized on such turnovers, then transitioned into their own attacking zone.
Junior midfielder Kim Coughlan took full advantage of the Wolverines’ settled attack.
Coughlan played tactically, pumping her stick when driving in order to draw shooting space penalties on the Golden Eagles. Her advanced lacrosse IQ resulted in two free position goals.
“When a girl goes through (the eight), it gives me the (isolation play). Usually I take it,” Coughlan said. “If I have a double team, I look for the open player, though, and hit her. It’s really just instinct.”
Such instinct allowed Coughlan to rack up five goals and an assist on the game. Her scoring prowess, along with that of Angerman, Schueler and junior midfielder Natalie Carti, allowed the Wolverines to pull ahead in the second half for an 11-8 victory.
“I feel like today, everyone was there and ready to compete for 60 minutes,” Ulehla said. “It was a great way to rebound, and we’ll just keep going.”