Michigan wards off scrappy Cleveland State in season opener
Halfway through the second quarter, the game seemed to already be a lock for the No. 20 Michigan men’s lacrosse team.
Up 7-0, the Wolverines’ 2019 season could not have started better.
Within the first 15 fifteen seconds of their season opener against Cleveland State, Wolverines' senior defenseman Nick DeCaprio scooped up a ground ball off the opening face-off and raced down the field. DeCaprio then dished the ball off to sophomore attackman Alex Buckanavage, who swiftly snuck the ball in the goal to put the Wolverines up 1-0. Headlined by two more goals by Buckanavage, Michigan would go on to score six unanswered times.
But the Vikings would not go down without a fight. The Wolverines narrowly escaped the Krenzler Dome with a 10-8 victory over Cleveland State Saturday, fighting off a comeback from a persistent, gritty Viking squad to advance to 1-0 on the season.
In a deep seven-goal deficit, Cleveland State attackman Tristen Copeland eventually stopped his team’s bleeding with five minutes remaining in the second quarter, as he buried a goal behind goalie Tommy Heidt to put the Vikings on the board 7-1.
In the final minutes of the second half, Cleveland State squeezed in two more goals to shorten the Wolverines’ lead to 7-3 at halftime.
Aided by a string of sloppy turnovers and poor transition defense by a fatigued Michigan, the Vikings were able to successfully score three additional goals to open the second half and bring down the Wolverines’ prior commanding lead to a single goal 7-6.
“ ... We were pushing the tempo a little too much which led to some bad mistakes,” DeCaprio said. “We didn’t get our offense the ball as much as we wanted to and got stuck playing defense for quite a bit of time”
Cleveland State was able to regain a foothold in the contest through lengthy possessions produced by a strong performance on face-offs by junior Danny Tesler, who won 12 of 20 at the X, and success on ground balls by the Viking midfielders.
“(The Vikings are) an opportunistic group,” said Michigan coach Kevin Conry. “We had opportunities on our edge to cash in and extend our lead ... they made some plays and we gave them some opportunities on the other end…”
But at a critical moment with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, the tides finally turned back in Michigan's favor.
Senior standout and preseason all-Big Ten midfielder Brent Noseworthy got his hands free and fired a shot behind Cleveland State sophomore goalie Stephen Russo. Noseworthy’s goal put the Wolverines back up by two goals 8-6, ending a nearly 15-minute long scoring drought for Michigan.
“We know Brent as a steady eddy and the rock of this team. Nothing gets too big for him,” Conry said. “(Everyone knows) to look for him in those kind of scenarios.”
In a similar case, with under two minutes remaining in the game, the Wolverines found themselves up by only one goal once again 9-8. In a crucial possession following a key ground ball by Buckanavage, Noseworthy loaded up and rocketed another goal past Russo to ice the game.
In a back-and-forth, peculiar game, the experience and ferocity of Noseworthy helped Michigan to survive and come out victorious 10-8.
Conry cited patience and resilience as additional keys to the team’s recovery and eventual triumph.
“We actually took the foot off the gas a little bit to give our defense a break and get quality offensive possessions,” Conry said. “Which in turn led to quality defensive possessions.”