With a quick glance at the stat sheet, the top three players on the Michigan men’s lacrosse team are upperclassmen who tend to lead the Wolverines in their games.
Saturday, though, Michigan’s young freshmen played pivotal minutes for the Wolverines.
Saturday’s game between Michigan and Dartmouth started off on a sour note for Michigan. After an early goal in the first quarter, the Wolverines struggled to mount any attack throughout the rest of the frame, finishing the period down four goals.
While the Wolverines’ (3-4) offensive attack finally came alive later in the game, it was too late, as they eventually lost, 13-12, to the Big Green (1-4) on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Still, Michigan has reasons to be optimistic after the loss because of the success of its younger players. Freshmen Decker Curran scored a goal and an assist in the game, and defensive midfielder Chase Young garnered four ground balls to add to his season total of 22 — second on the team. Their classmate, attackman Rocco Sutherland, had a solid effort, too, with two shots, including one on goal.
But most notable of the freshmen was midfielder Justin Gibbons, who added two goals for his second career multi-goal game. Gibbons took a total of five shots, four which were on goal, second only to senior attackman Kyle Jackson, who finished with six.
Gibbons, though ultimately feeling disappointed his team lost, believed his performance provided him with a necessary confidence booster in the season going forward as he continues to adjust to the faster pace of college lacrosse.
“I was recently placed on defensive midfield, which is a blessing for me because it showed me how to run both ends,” Gibbons said. “In high school, I’d only run one — on offense — it’s definitely a difficult transition, but I’m working on it.”
To help ease this challenging adjustment to both college lacrosse and the new independent lifestyle, the Wolverine freshmen have looked to the team’s elder players for advice and guidance.
Michigan’s seniors have taken it upon themselves to forge relationships with the newcomers and foster connections to form greater unity.
“We (make) an emphasis to get everyone together as much as possible on and off the field,” said senior attackman Peter Kraus. “(There are) very good relationships formed from senior to freshman, to get confidence up, (and in practice) giving them as many reps as possible.”
In Saturday’s game specifically, Michigan coach John Paul praised Sutherland and Gibbons. He explained that against Dartmouth, the two young players impressed in areas that they have struggled with in other games this season.
Gibbons again started in the early midfield lines just as he did in the Wolverines’ last home game on March 5 in a win over Vermont.
After Saturday’s game against the Big Green, Paul commended the way Gibbons scored his goals.
“(He does) a really good job at hiding his stick on his shot,” Paul said. “His shot is really hard to pick up for the goalie.”
In the fourth quarter, especially, freshmen such as Gibbons and Sutherland played pivotal minutes in the unsuccessful comeback run.
Gibbons added a goal with two minutes left and Curran dished out an assist with 31 seconds left.
Unfortunately for Michigan, the goals came too late.