Wolverines come up victorious in the last Michigan athletic event of the school year

Thursday, March 12, 2020 - 12:32pm

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Alec Cohen/Daily

Michigan coach Kevin Conry lowered his voice as he commented on the rapidly progressing COVID-19 pandemic.

“No this is all new,” Conry said. “We are going to go ahead and trust the administration, the university and follow their policies. I really don’t have an answer.”

A day later, there was no season to talk about. 

In the midst of the chaos, the Wolverines (4-3) narrowly defeated Marquette (3-4), 13-12, in what would ultimately become the last Michigan sporting event of the 2019-2020 school year. 

The first quarter was an offensive onslaught, helping the Wolverines achieve a 6-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. But after that, the game slowed down and each possession began to matter. 

“It felt like the juices were going,” Conry said. “It was really fueled by Nick Rowlett’s efforts today. He was on it. He was fantastic.” 

The sophomore faceoff midfielder was dominant, winning 22 out of the 29 faceoffs. More importantly, the extra possessions sparked the Wolverines’ massive run of six unanswered points.

Junior midfielder Alex Buckanavage scored half of the points on the run and assisted on two of them. 

“I think it started with the faceoff wins because it really dictates a game,” Buckanavage said. “We are a pretty efficient offense when we do have the ball, but when we are winning 22 faceoffs a game, it kind of gets us started in the right spot.”

Buckanavage also reached a career milestone, scoring his 101st goal, an impressive feat for a player his age. 

As the Wolverines momentum slowed, the Golden Eagles clawed their way back to a two-point game, 10-8, entering the fourth quarter. Michigan was able to prevail in large part due to crucial stops by sophomore goalkeeper John Kiracofe, who was making his first full-game start. 

“The best thing about John is he’s got a great head,” Conry said. “He can rebound quickly from goals that he knew he should’ve had.”

Much like Kiracofe, the rest of the starting lineup is made up of 42 percent new and young players. Their inexperience showed as they commited 15 turnovers, more than doubling Marquette, and four costly ones in the fourth quarter. Yet Kiracofe and the Wolverines were able to hold off Marquette. 

“We kind of walked away from the weekend after playing Yale,” Conry said. “We talked about ‘big moments.’ … So when the ‘big moment’ came … we learned and that’s really the most important part and that’s what we want to do to set ourselves up for the next phase of our season.”

With the win, Michigan’s bench stormed the field, joining their fellow teammates and the crowd erupted into a huge cheer. However, like a dark cloud shadowing, it was the last time the roar of a fan-filled crowd would be heard at a Michigan sporting event.  

Minutes before the first faceoff, University President, Mark Schlissel, announced the cancelation of in-person classes and events for the rest of the semester. 

A few minutes later, the Michigan Athletic Department issued their own announcement that all non-essential staff will not be allowed to be in attendance at athletic events or practices. Fresh of a narrow win, Wolverines’ players had barely comprehend the news. 

“Not that we get the biggest of crowds and that it is still nice to have people there, but like I don’t know,” Buckanavage said. “I know a bunch of people are getting upset about the season getting canceled. I hope that doesn’t happen to us.”

Less than a day later, their worst fear arrived, showing how quickly the situation progressed. 

Buckanavage was barely able to put his thoughts into words, but rightfully so. His rawness proves how shocking the news has been. Similarly, Conry struggled to comment. 

Despite the win, Conry’s tone was reflective of the state of Michigan athletics and all athletics. The last buzzer sounded for the final game of the academic school year, sending fans, players and media into a state of dismay.