Wolverines hold off late Marquette run for exhibition win in season opener

Sunday, January 31, 2016 - 5:55pm

Five seasons in, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team is finally made up of four full recruiting classes. Composed entirely of recruited players, the team is confident in its ability to compete with more seasoned opponents.

“This team believes that they can do some special things, and maybe this is the first team we have that has that top-to-bottom belief,” said head coach John Paul. “Our goals are to compete for Big Ten championships.”

The Wolverines got a glimpse of what they will be up against this season Saturday, defeating No. 17 Marquette, 15-13, in an exhibition game in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Oosterbaan Field House. Marquette, like Michigan, just recently elevated its lacrosse team to varsity status in 2013.

The Wolverines started off strong, winning the opening faceoff and scoring 10 seconds into the game. The goal, scored by junior attacker Ian King, was the first of three on the day for King.

Marquette’s Kyle Whitlow had a quick equalizer just 35 seconds later, but a goal by Michigan senior attacker Kyle Jackson one minute later gave Michigan the lead for good.

After redshirt senior midfielder David Joseph made it 3-1, the Wolverines and Golden Eagles exchanged goals for the rest of the period. Marquette had multiple periods of sustained offensive pressure at the end of the period, but the Michigan defense was able to frequently disrupt the Marquette passing game, squashing many possible scoring chances in the process.

“The defense played awesome,” said junior midfielder Mikie Schlosser. “The defense has been working really hard all fall and the beginning of the spring.  Every day in practice, the defense has been beating up on the offense. It’s awesome to see that actually show in a game.”

Michigan repeated its early pressure with a beautiful team goal to start off the second quarter. Schlosser picked up a loose ball and threw a long pass to senior Chase Brown. Brown, who was standing behind the net, quickly dumped the ball to Jackson — who was in front of the net — for an easy goal.

The Wolverines continued their strong offensive pressure throughout the second quarter, highlighted by a no-look, side-armed, behind-the-back goal by King. He also had a shot at the end of the quarter, but he missed just wide to go to the locker room with a 7-5 lead.

In the third quarter, three quick goals gave Michigan a 10-5 lead, and the Wolverines’ pressure was so strong that the Golden Eagles didn’t even cross midfield until five minutes in. Marquette’s passing game was again lackluster in the third quarter, with multiple passes either going long or being intercepted by Michigan defenders.

Michigan’s biggest lead of the night came after a backdoor cut by sophomore defensive midfielder Chase Young caused a Marquette defender to overcommit and jump past Young, allowing him to shoot and score from 15 yards out.

After exchanging goals at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines sat comfortably with a 15-10 lead. The Golden Eagles, though, were not finished.

With just six minutes left, Marquette scored two quick goals to make the game 15-12. Suddenly, the Golden Eagles were able to complete long passes, consistently win face-offs and have sustained pressure in the Michigan zone.

With 2:30 remaining, Marquette once again won the faceoff and was setting up to score another goal, but a bad turnover gave Michigan the ball and ultimately the win. Marquette managed to score a final goal with 20 seconds remaining to make it 15-13, but the effort was too late.

“I thought we could have finished a little bit better,” Paul said. “We made some mistakes down the stretch there that I would rather we don’t make. Our consistency on the sideline and our focus and execution has to be the same no matter what the situation is — we just have to adjust to whatever our situation is.”