For 14 minutes Tuesday, the Michigan women’s lacrosse team was plagued by the same problem it has had for a month and a half: an inability to score.
The Wolverines were given what seemed to be a reprieve from Big Ten play against unranked Niagara. The non-conference matchup was especially welcome coming off a blowout loss at No. 13 Northwestern and a nail-biting defeat to No. 18 Ohio State. The Purple Eagles, who are .500 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference — a conference with no teams in the top 25 — seemed like a prime target for Michigan to end its scoring drought.
But, for 14 minutes, Michigan (0-2 Big Ten, 6-8 overall) could not find the back of the net against Niagara (2-2 MAAC, 6-7 overall). Eventually, though, junior attacker Tess Korten got the ball rolling.
“I was a bit concerned initially,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla. “I think we just really needed to get a better understanding of the zone-backer defense that they were playing, and once we got that, we were able to get a bunch of opportunities.”
After Korten’s first goal, the Wolverines began to pour it on. Michigan scored five more goals during the remainder of the half, taking a 6-1 lead into the locker room. But it remained to be seen if the Wolverines could break their 10-goal mark.
Michigan had not scored 10 goals since Feb. 26, and had come within three goals of that benchmark in just two of its eight games since then. At 15:28 of the second half, though, Korten — the same player who started the scoring for the Wolverines — found the back of the net to break that streak.
“The past three days or so, we’ve been focusing just on ourselves, on our offense and our defense,” Korten said. “We were really focusing on fundamentals, on working together, on building team chemistry on the field. It really paid off today.”
Perhaps even more impressive than the number of goals scored by the Wolverines was who scored them. Eight different players found twine, including two attackers with little scoring experience: redshirt sophomore Bianca Brueckner scored just her second goal of the year, and junior Kelly Schlansker scored her third, fourth and fifth goals of the season for her first career hat trick.
“We had a lot of different people score, which is always a goal of ours,” Ulehla said. “I was just really happy with the offense in general, that so many different people had opportunities and took advantage of them and scored.”
With the win, Ulehla is hopeful that the team can regain some confidence as it returns to Big Ten play. But, returning from a reprieve will likely be difficult, as the Wolverines face No. 10 Penn State on Sunday before matching up against a daunting No. 1 Maryland team.
Still, even with some challenging games ahead, being able to pour on the goals against Niagara gave the still-young Wolverines some much-needed confidence and experience.
“The Big Ten is incredibly, incredibly strong,” Ulehla said. “It takes a tremendous amount of confidence and consistency and really focusing on fundamentals, and that’s what we keep trying to do every single day: trying not to focus on the opponent and really focusing on our growth.”