In just the sixth year of varsity men’s lacrosse at Michigan, it took just seven games for Coach John Paul’s group to eclipse the program’s record for wins in a season.
The Wolverines (6-1 overall) got their record-setting sixth victory Saturday at Furman, aided by sophomore midfielder PJ Bogle’s first career hat trick in a 7-5 triumph.
“It helps to have a breakout game where I can get the ball out of my stick a lot and have it end up in the back of the net,” Boyle said. “It reinforced that I can trust my teammates to get me the ball inside and that I can trust the offense that (assistant) coach (Conor) Ford has us running. Having a game like that certainly will help me going forward.”
Boyle credited Michigan’s first possession — which lasted nearly four minutes — and trust in the offensive game plan with giving him the confidence to pepper the net with 10 shots on the afternoon. The Wolverines’ eighth-leading scorer was the most active player offensively on a day in which the usual suspects didn't markup the scoring column.
Sophomore Tommy Heidt, who won a preseason four-way battle to be the starting goaltender, made seven key saves in the fourth quarter to hold off the Paladins.
“He did a big part in bailing us out late in the game today when Furman was in desperation time,” Paul said. “They got some good looks, and he made some pretty spectacular saves. It’s comforting to have a guy back there that isn’t only making the saves he’s supposed to make but also robs the other team throughout the game. That’s what Tommy’s doing.”
Added Heidt: “Our defense bared down (in the fourth) and tried to force the opposition to take shots that I like and we like.”
Michigan's defense of a perfect record looked possible against No. 5 Notre Dame on Feb. 26, as the team trailed by just three goals at halftime. But the Fighting Irish used a 51-24 shot advantage to score nine goals in the second frame and win in lopsided fashion, 16-5.
18 turnovers plagued the Wolverines and overwhelmed the defense, as Heidt’s 17 saves — good for the fourth-most all-time by a Wolverine in a single game — weren’t enough to stall an Irish team that dominated possession. The contest demonstrated that, while Michigan players have been able to see the fruits of Ford’s game plan, the offense hasn’t found the necessary cohesion in order to defeat elite teams.
“We didn’t have a lot of smart possessions and weren’t running what we wanted to,” Paul said. “We want smarter and better offense and make better choices with the ball.”
Though the offense showed signs of diversification with Boyle's hat trick, senior attacker Ian King continues to hit the back of the net and amass assists. He moved to the top of the program’s all-time points list with a helper to sophomore attacker Brent Noseworthy in the second quarter against Notre Dame.
“(King) has been a steady presence for us when he’s in.” Paul said. “He and Kyle Jackson have really been the first two elite offensive players for us.”
Despite enduring a similar shot deficit and lackluster second half against Mercer on Thursday, three consecutive conversions on extra-man opportunity in the second quarter boosted Michigan to a 11-6 victory.
Noseworthy earned his fourth hat trick of the season, as King, sophomore midfielder Decker Curran and junior attacker Patrick Tracy each notched two goals.
Just a month into the season, Michigan has progressed in replacing the contributions of Major League Lacrosse draft selection Kyle Jackson and three-year starting goalie Gerald Logan, who transferred to Johns Hopkins.
“We’re showing a ton of growth,” Paul said. “At the beginning of the year, we established ourselves against the programs that are usually competitive with us and win going away. We played a good Furman team that was well rested and better prepared than us. We’re getting more confident — that's really the biggest difference.”