Selena Sun/Daily. Buy this photo.

Riding a three-game losing streak, the No. 14 Michigan women’s lacrosse team was looking for a chance to end its skid Friday night against rival Ohio State.

After a slow start that led to a four-goal deficit at the end of the first period, the Wolverines needed a spark. And with two captains out with injuries, they found energy from their bench. 

But the comeback led by freshman midfielder Jill Smith and senior attacker Claire Galvin fell short as Michigan (9-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) lost to the Buckeyes (9-4, 2-1), 9-7.

After a disappointing loss against Southern California last weekend, the Wolverines were hoping to play four periods of consistent lacrosse — something that has been a bit of a struggle lately. 

“You can’t expect to play 45 minutes and win in the Big Ten,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “Last game we started fast and ended slow, this game we started slow and ended OK. The message is to figure out what you got to do to maintain a consistent level, whether it’s mental lapses or if it’s physical fatigue.”

That slow start was a scoreless first six minutes until Ohio State broke the game open and Michigan, looking lost, couldn’t match the Buckeyes’ production. The Wolverines were outshot 11-5 in the first period and they needed someone to step up. 

That appeared to be Smith and Galvin.

After a goal from freshman midfielder Julia Schwabe got Michigan on the scoreboard, Smith added one of her own, waking up both the crowd and her team as momentum started to shift. 

But down 5-2 going into the half, the Wolverines needed more.

Smith scored her second goal three minutes into the half, and after Ohio State answered, Galvin chipped in with two of her own, trimming the Buckeyes’ lead to one. 

As the Wolverines narrowed the gap, the tension on the field amplified and players started getting chippy. In the final six-and-a-half minutes of the third period, each team had a yellow card while trading a total of five fouls.

A Buckeye goal with 90 seconds left before the break brought Michigan’s deficit back to two heading into the final period of play. 

Intense Wolverine defense kept Ohio State at bay for the first few minutes of the fourth period, but the Buckeyes scored another goal, widening the gap Michigan was hoping to close.

Just three minutes later, Galvin scored her third goal of the game, her second hat trick of the season and her first during conference play, bringing the deficit back to two. As yet another key goal from a bench player gave the Wolverines a much-needed spark, Ohio State called timeout, fearing a momentum shift.

Out of the timeout, the intensity of both teams increased as they traded shots, defensive stands and fouls. 

The Buckeyes struck next with a man-up goal after a Michigan yellow card, but the Wolverines answered two minutes later with a goal from senior midfielder Kaitlyn Mead, a consistent force for Michigan all season.

The Wolverines played the final 100 seconds of the game with an intensity that had been lacking earlier. They got a couple of good opportunities out of the free position, but they just couldn’t capitalize.

As Michigan hopes to get back to the dominance it started the season with, its bench production provides a potential blueprint. 

“(Galvin) does really well against zone; she’s a very smart player, a great off-ball player, sees lanes and had a great day shooting today,” Nielsen said. “Jill (Smith) as well, really in one of her first games playing two-way midfield, for her to step up in the absence of some key players I thought was a positive sign.”

But for the team to get back into the win column, the Wolverines will have to get back to playing four consistent periods of lacrosse.