Strong second half propels Michigan to win in season opener
The first game of the season won’t make or break a team’s year. What it does do though, is set the tone and instill confidence in the players for the coming months.
Sunday’s game did just that for the No. 8 Michigan women’s lacrosse team (1-0) as it took down Jacksonville (0-1), 10-8, on the road to start its season on a high note.
The Wolverines went down, 4-1, early, but didn’t let the slow start affect them. They bounced back quickly, as junior attacker Caitlin Muir netted two goals in under a minute to pull them within one. This spurred on two more goals, one by senior attacker Lily Grass and the other by junior midfielder Maggie Kane. Michigan took its first lead of the game and never relinquished it.
“We knew we had to go on a run to get back up there,” Muir said. “So we were all feeding off of each other. We knew we could do it.”
Feeding off each other ended up being very important for the Wolverines. They scored consecutive goals twice more in the game, including the match’s final two goals. Senior midfielder Chandler Kirby notched the game-winner, and senior midfielder Nadine Stewart added another to give her team separation.
“We really build of each other’s success,” Muir said. “After every goal we come together, we talk about what happened, what we need to do.”
All this offense wouldn’t have been enough if not for a stellar second period defensively. Tied at six, the Wolverines made adjustments that paid off handsomely.
“We locked it down and got a little tighter,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “The refs were calling the game really tight, and we couldn’t get away with a lot on defense. So, we really just fine-tuned our defensive strategy in terms of playing better body position and not fouling to give them as many eight meters.”
Tightening the defense resulted in the Wolverines conceding just two second period goals and six fewer shots than in the first.
And while the defense did its job for Michigan, junior goaltender Arielle Weissman had a strong showing as well with seven saves, including two late on free position shots that Nielsen called “really pivotal saves,” securing the win.
“We came together as a whole team,” Muir said. “So it bumped our confidence up as a unit and everything that we’re gonna be capable of this year.”