After a 16-13 defeat to Delaware last Saturday, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team found itself with more questions than answers, dropping its fourth-straight contest in a row after a 3-1 start.
Chief among these struggles has been the team’s goalkeeping, with fifth-year senior goalie Tommy Heidt failing to hold opponents off despite the offense routinely starting games on a high note, outscoring opponents by a 26-20 margin. In practice this past week, Michigan coach Kevin Conry found a potential answer to his squad’s woes — senior Gunner Garn.
Even though he had never seen the field, Garn’s performance inspired Conry to make a switch this week— both for the team and Heidt.
“(Heidt) felt a little unsettled and we kinda went back to it and opened it up a little bit,” Conry said. “Through practice, Gunner really excelled and we made the call to go to him.”
Garn was thrilled when he heard that he had won the job. Heidt, who is Garn’s best friend, shared the excitement.
“We’re so supportive of each other and finally seeing the hard work finally pay off is one of the best feelings in the world,” Garn said.
Once the game began, Garn’s efforts in practice paid off, at least initially. Playing against Johns Hopkins, the 18th-ranked team in the country, he routinely made tough saves and played well to help the Wolverines enter the locker room down just 7-5.
Despite Garn’s strong play, defensive errors ultimately spoiled his first start game in net. Garn totaled 15 saves, but received minimal help from his defense, which committed nine penalties, allowing the Blue Jays to net four extra-man goals and prevented the offense from establishing a groove on fast-break chances. Ultimately, the Wolverines were unable to overcome its defensive lapses, falling 14-8.
“We definitely have to be more disciplined as a defensive unit, especially with our sticks,” Garn said. “I think if we cut that down a little bit and clean up the simple mental errors, I think we’re right in that game.”
But the loss cannot be blamed solely on Garn. He saved 15 shots and successfully had few defensive zone giveaways. While Garn himself gave up the goals, the Blue Jays’ frequent extra-man chances made it difficult for his defense to truly provide him with much support. Ultimately, in a game where Michigan struggled to remain at full strength, Garn did as well as could be reasonably expected.
“He did a great job just doing his job and not trying to do too much,” Conry said. “We’ve got to help him out in front of him a little bit more, in terms of just being more disciplined, but you can’t argue with the job that he did.”