The Michigan men’s lacrosse team is in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season. From a blowout loss to Brown to a one-goal loss Maryland, the Wolverines have seen their fair share of losses.
Sunday, that didn’t change.
After staying close with Rutgers all day, even taking a lead early in the match, the Wolverines couldn’t pull out the victory, losing 13-6 in Piscataway.
“At this point, our seniors know that this is our last go around,” said senior faceoff man Brad Lott. “Losing close games is not fun. We all know that. I think the morale is that we have to play for each other from this point on. Playing for each other is key for me, it’s key for all of the seniors.
“It comes down to taking what the coach gives you, and then it’s your job to move forward and do it.”
Lott had one of his best games of the season in the loss, winning 16 of 23 faceoffs to limit Rutgers’ offensive opportunities.
Amid the turbulence of the loss for the Wolverines, junior attacker Ian King returned to the lineup. He had been sidelined for two games with a shoulder injury and returned to action against the Scarlet Knights, sporting a protective pad underneath his shoulder pads.
That didn’t slow him down, though. The junior tallied two goals and an assist.
“(King) practiced light this week,” Lott said. “But we let him run the field today. He’s a very valuable asset. He’s one of our leading scorers. He’s got probably the best cannon on the team. We put him in a different position, knowing that we needed him up there, and he did great. He’s probably not used to getting up and down the field that much, but whether he’s on attack or midfield, he’s a threat.”
Despite King’s return, Michigan was still shorthanded. Its leading scorer, senior attacker Kyle Jackson, remained on the sideline with an injury of his own.
Though injuries are no doubt a hindrance to the Wolverines, it hasn’t seemed to cripple them over the past few games when they were missing both King and Jackson. Against then-No. 5 Maryland on April 2, Michigan only lost by one, relinquishing a late lead.
Sunday, the Wolverines turned the ball over 20 times and forced just 12 from the Scarlet Knights. They were also outshot, 42-38.
While Michigan will look to improve by getting healthy again, it knows it needs to improve offensively as well if it wants to get out of its current slump.
“We won close games earlier this year,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “I think we’re at a point right now where our defense, I think, is playing our best of the year. We’re facing off really well. But now, our offense is struggling, and we've just got to find a way to get both sides of the ball playing well as a team.”
“It’s tough for me to say,” Lott said. “I do my part, and I know everyone else is trying to do theirs. So, winning faceoffs, if I can just get that done and give the offense more opportunities to get the shots they need, you know, I’ll do everything I can to do that.
“But when it comes to offensive efficiency, obviously we’re always trying to improve and always trying to get better.”
But the time is running out on the Wolverines’ season. With only three games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament, they will need to improve quickly if they want to avoid an early end to the season.