In the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth match against Merrimack, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team mustered up an opportunity to tie the game. 

The Wolverines had the ball within feet of the Warriors’ goal. They were close, but with a momentum-shifting goal right in front of them, a slightly overshot pass by midfielder Josh Zawada ended Michigan’s hopes as it sailed out of bounds.

Crucial turnovers like this proved fatal for Michigan on Saturday afternoon, as they lost 14-12 to what was a winless Merrimack team. Even with only 12 Michigan turnovers, the timing of them contributed to the Wolverines’ loss.

“A lot of credit to Merrimack, they were flying around,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “They played hard, they got to our hands. We didn’t make good decisions, we didn’t have good spacing. When we did, we scored. And that will be a consistent thing with young guys. We keep throwing out a lot of freshmen.”

In the first quarter, three Michigan turnovers contributed to a 5-2 edge for the Warriors after 15 minutes. The first two were forced by Merrimack. The third was unforced, but was converted into a goal for the Warriors.

Michigan did not turn the ball over at all in the third quarter, allowing them to draw even at 11-11. Yet in the fourth quarter, Michigan had a whopping six turnovers and was outscored by Merrimack 3-1. With the game tied up entering the final 15 minutes, the Warriors’ fourth quarter edge sealed the match in their favor.

“Those have been our woes,” Conry said. “You know, coming out of the locker room and being a full 60-minute team. We got on the board real early and then, I give a lot of credit to Merrimack and how they bounced back.

In another key moment, with 35 seconds left on the clock and Michigan down by two, the Warriors forced a turnover as they knocked the ball away from midfielder Alex Buckanavage to gain control.

“Turnovers killed us pretty much the entire game,” Michigan attacker Rocco Sutherland said. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and, you know, in a close game, unforced turnovers are something that definitely kills you.”

The Wolverines have averaged 5.5 turnovers in the fourth quarter this season, compared to 2.75 in other quarters. With twice as many turnovers when closing out games, it’s hard to overlook these when examining the two close losses Michigan has had thus far.

Conry and Sutherland both blamed ground balls and faceoffs for Michigan’s loss. But in those fateful several minutes of the game, the impactful plays for the Wolverines remained two ill-timed turnovers. 

Possession changes cost Michigan dearly in the fourth quarter, and in turn, the game.

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