For several minutes after the Michigan men’s lacrosse team’s game Saturday, most of the team lingered. Thirteen seniors had just played their final home game, and many paused to take in their last glimpse of Michigan Stadium. Other players mingled with their opponents from Johns Hopkins. Michigan coach John Paul stayed behind to embrace a few of his seniors.
As late as the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines had a chance to upset the 10th-ranked Blue Jays and pull off the biggest win in the young program’s history. But a late Johns Hopkins run stymied that opportunity and handed Michigan its seventh straight loss, 19-13, in front of 2,784 spectators at the Big House.
A win would have kept the Wolverines in contention for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, Michigan (0-4 Big Ten, 3-9 overall) will play at Penn State on Saturday, after which the team’s season will end without a conference tournament berth for the second straight year.
The Wolverines showed flashes of promise in cutting Johns Hopkins’ lead to three early in the fourth quarter. But again, one of the top programs in college lacrosse proved superior to a young Michigan team in its seniors’ final home game.
“These were guys who came here to help us start a program,” Paul said. “They didn’t come here expecting to win championships. They knew that wasn’t going to be part of their experience here.
“They knew they were coming to a program that was in its early building stages, and I think Michigan lacrosse owes them a lot for going through all that they had to go through in these first four years, when they probably could have gone somewhere else and had a more satisfying wins-losses lacrosse career in those four years.”
With 11:25 left in the game, senior attacker Kyle Jackson — who played for the first time since March 19 after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot — scored his fifth goal. The Wolverines, who were behind from the first quarter, then trailed by just three, a deficit that still stood with six minutes to play.
At that point, Johns Hopkins dealt one final blow, scoring four of the game’s last five goals to secure a victory.
The Blue Jays (3-1, 8-4) built a sufficient lead in the first half. After Michigan scored two quick goals and kept a shutout for the first eight minutes, Johns Hopkins strung together seven consecutive tallies in 8:38 and led by at least four from then until the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines’ downfall came in the possession battle, usually a strong suit. At halftime, they had picked up just 11 ground balls, half of Johns Hopkins’ 22, leading to a 25-14 differential in shots. They had also won just six of 17 faceoffs, with senior faceoff specialist Brad Lott going 3-for-13. Eventually, Paul replaced Lott, Michigan’s top faceoff man entering Sunday, with sophomore Mike McDonnell, who finished 12-for-21.
“It’s such a funny thing, because it’s like rock-paper-scissors,” Paul said. “You just don’t know how that matchup’s going to go.”
When it favored the Blue Jays, Johns Hopkins managed to get its prolific offense — ranked 13th in the country in scoring and 12th in shot percentage — rolling. Michigan senior goaltender Gerald Logan totaled 13 saves, but the Blue Jays peppered him with too many shots.
“They were getting possessions,” Paul said, “and they score on everybody when they have the ball.”
The Wolverines switched from man-to-man to zone defense in the second half and found success, outscoring Johns Hopkins in the third quarter, 5-3. They slowed the game down, and Jackson — whom the Blue Jays blanketed in the first half — scored twice more to double his total.
Michigan also turned the table in the possession battle in the second half. It outshot Johns Hopkins, 23-18, held an 18-14 advantage in ground balls and pulled even in faceoffs. But the improvement wasn’t enough to even the score.