Down one goal with 11.8 seconds left in the game, Jacksonville midfielder Evan Tyler dodged ferociously off the wing and dished the ball off to midfielder Jack Dolan, setting up what seemed to be the perfect opportunity for a game-tying goal for the Dolphins.
But fifth-year senior goalkeeper Tommy Heidt stood his ground, warding off Dolan’s shot as time expired, icing the game for the Michigan men's lacrosse team, 11-10.
“I was in the right spot, so it hit me,” Heidt said.
With 15 saves on the day, Heidt stood tall between the pipes — aided by a strong, punishing defensive unit — to lead the Wolverines (2-1) to a narrow victory over Jacksonville (0-4) on Saturday.
“Most of the shots I saw were the shots I wanted to see … That’s credit to our defense,” Heidt said. “(They) played incredible.”
Following a heartbreaking 17-16 loss in double overtime to the Drexel Dragons on Tuesday, Michigan was eager to bounce back against the Dolphins on the road.
“I had a tough game last (Tuesday) against Drexel,” Heidt said. “We went back down to the fundamentals … I did a lot of mental preparation to get this one back … (I think) we fixed a lot of the kinks.”
Added Michigan coach Kevin Conry: “Tommy Heidt stood on his head. He was terrific and it was a great bounce-back game for him.”
Like Heidt, the Wolverines straightened out and dominated the gritty aspects of the game. Sophomore face-off man Connor Cronin frequently won the clamp against his opponent, going 12-for-20 on faceoffs, to aid an offense that had struggled to gain possessions off faceoffs in its past few games. Michigan also dominated ground ball play, scooping up 27 of 50 ground balls, with Heidt contributing seven ground balls and senior defenseman Nick DeCaprio also picking up three on the day.
“When we had (faceoffs and ground balls) rolling, that just means extra possessions for us,” Conry said.
For the Wolverines, those extra possessions led to even more goals, including seven different goalscorers by the day’s end.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, freshman attackman Bryce Clay fired a shot in tight past Jacksonville goalkeeper Hunter Sells to tie the game up 1-1. The Wolverines then went on to score three more unanswered goals, including a pair of goals from junior attackman Jason Brown and one from senior midfielder Brent Noseworthy.
At the half, Michigan led the Dolphins, 5-3. As DeCaprio sprinted down the field and rocketed a top-shelf goal past Sells in the final minutes of the first half, the Wolverines’ bench was electrified.
The defense featured strong individual performances, like that of senior defenseman Brandon Shima, who mustered two ground balls and led the team with four caused turnovers on the day. Freshman defenseman Andrew Darby caused two turnovers in his first game as a starter.
Nevertheless, like its past two games, the Michigan defense allowed its opponent to get back into the game.
However, persistent struggles on situational defense allowed Jacksonville to crawl back and tie up the game at six, with nine minutes into the third quarter.
“We have been trying to recreate some of these scramble situations in practice,” Conry said. “What we are really focusing on is just our situational awareness… when we need to push the ball, when we need to swallow it a little bit.”
Throughout the rest of the second half, the Wolverines’ lead never extended to more than two goals again, as both sides exchanged a series of goals to bring the score to 10-10 with five minutes remaining in the contest.
With fewer than three minutes remaining, Clay fed Noseworthy from the wing, who then launched what would become the game-winning goal past Sells to give Michigan an 11-10 lead and himself back-to-back hat tricks
As time wound down, Heidt and the Wolverines’ defense came up clutch, stifling the Dolphins’ offense when it mattered most.
“(We) didn’t give up in those last 11 seconds and worked really, really hard,” Heidt said. “(We gave) everything (we had) while trying to stay mentally dialed-in.”
Despite other challenges, Michigan's stellar goalkeeping and offensive consistency allowed it to escape with another narrow, yet impressive, victory.
“There’s nothing like the value of experience,” Conry said. “By going through the wringer now, we have learned what it means to win.”