Michigan unable to keep up with Hofstra in early test of its youth, falls 12-9
With under ten minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team was right where it wanted to be.
Proctored by a series of scrappy ground balls and faceoff wins, lengthy offensive possessions produced a pair of goals from sophomore attackman Bryce Clay and a low-to-high goal from junior attackman Kevin Mack to give the Wolverines a three-goal lead, 6-3.
But due to numerous self-inflicted miscues and an inability to contain an experienced, high-powered Hofstra offense in the latter part of the game, Michigan (1-1) was unable to keep pace with the Pride (2-0), falling 12-9.
On Saturday, the Wolverines’ most difficult task was managing attackman Ryan Tierney, Inside Lacrosse preseason 2020 CAA Player of the Year.
Tierney and Michigan coach Kevin Conry have a unique relationship. Tierney is the son of current Pride coach Seth Tierney, who coached Johns Hopkins while Conry played there in the early 2000s. Conry watched Tierney grow up with a lacrosse stick in his hands, and on Saturday, Conry saw Tierney’s development into a dominant player firsthand.
Less than a minute into the contest, Tierney dodged down the left alley and rocketed a shot past Michigan senior goaltender Matt Trowbridge. Tierney scored the Pride’s first three goals, recording a hat trick just over halfway into the first quarter.
But whenever Tierney found a way to score, the Wolverines answered with a goal of their own.
After a goal from junior midfielder Alex Buckanavage and a pair of goals from freshman attackman Josh Zawada, Michigan and the Pride stood tied at three at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wolverines did a better job containing Tierney’s shot. Applying defensive pressure to Tierney’s hands, sophomore defenseman Andrew Darby limited Tierney to only one goal in the quarter.
But after a successful start to the second quarter, Michigan let up three goals to go into the half tied at six.
Three minutes into the third quarter, Hofstra picked up where it left off. Following an unsettled goal from attackman Ryan Sheridan, the Pride retook the lead for the first time since the end of the first quarter.
Due to three failed clears and five turnovers in the quarter, the Wolverines’ offense struggled to get as many scoring opportunities as it did earlier in the game. And when the offense was able to get shots off, it struggled to find the back of the net — only three of seven shots registered as shots on goal. In the entire second half, Michigan went 0-for-5 on man-up opportunities.
“You lose possession, you lose a little confidence, and you get frustrated,” Conry said. “You get swallowed up by the moment a little bit.”
Added Clay: “We were moving the ball in the first half, (but we) got a little stale in the second. We controlled it in the first and we took shots. We canned shots. And in the second half, we just didn’t do that.”
With three minutes left in the third quarter, Clay notched his third goal of the day to end the Wolverines’ scoring drought and even the score at seven.
But Michigan couldn’t build off of the momentum of Clay’s goal.
Instead, Hofstra began to pull away.
While the Wolverines’ defense limited Tierney as a shooter, he adapted. He became a distributor.
Just over two minutes remaining in the quarter, with Michigan’s defense honed in on him, Tierney slipped a pass to Sheridan, who stepped down and fired a goal past sophomore goaltender John Kiracofe, who was subbed in for Trowbridge. Less than thirty seconds later, long-stick midfielder Michael Altmann lasered a shot past Kiracofe following a Wolverine faceoff violation to re-extend the Pride’s lead to two, 9-7.
“If you take his vision away, he is able to beat you from deep,” Conry said. “If you take both of those away, which is almost nearly impossible, (Hofstra) has enough talent to make you pay in other regards.”
Following a dominant victory last week against Cleveland State, frustration ensued for a young Michigan roster featuring several freshmen as key starters. Not accustomed to playing from behind yet this season, the Wolverines struggled to play with the same focus and tenacity.
In the final quarter, the Pride jumped out to a commanding 12-7 lead following a trio of goals, with assists dished out by Tierney on two of the three.
Freshman midfielder Bonomi and Buckanavage added goals to the Michigan’s tally in the dying moments to bring the score to 12-9, but by then, it was too late.
“Our youth was really exposed during key moments of the game,” Conry said. “(Hofstra) is a veteran group. (It) is a savvy group, a well-coached group. And they were able to exploit our mistakes.”