Michigan's defense was overwhelmed by Johns Hopkins. Lila TurnerDaily. Buy this photo.

Saturday brought on another painful loss for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team.

The Wolverines were right there at a number of points throughout the game, and it looked like the early-season offensive energy that had disappeared in losses against Harvard and Notre Dame might be re-emerging. But each time that Michigan put anything together at that end, Johns Hopkins answered — seemingly with ease. 

In the 15-12 loss, the Wolverines defense was to blame. The unit struggled to put together stops, looking undisciplined and confused in all four quarters. For Michigan, this game had huge implications in this season and beyond: A win would have ended a 2-game slide and given the program a marquee win against the historically elite Blue Jays. And though it was within reach, lapses at the back end kept that program-elevating victory out of the Wolverines grasp.

“Our focus this week was being able to slide in a timely manner while still being able to fill and making sure our crease was covered up,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “We also wrinkled in a lot of zone work which still was predicated on us being a communicative group and filling on the interior.”

But Michigan struggled to execute that gameplan from the onset.

Despite holding a 4-3 lead after one quarter, the Wolverines allowed Johns Hopkins to attempt 11 shots, most of them coming from close range. One persistent problem on defense was a lack of patience — nearly half of the Blue Jays goals came late in the shot-clock. The slow-paced approach that allowed them time to set up open shots was reminiscent of Notre Dame’s strategy the game before, and it was just as effective for the Blue Jays.

“Our job is to be a disciplined group,” Conry said. “Its not to be a group that puts the ball on the ground. With how good our league is, we have to be disciplined late in the shot clock. There were too many flashy cutters with our heads turned, too many our guys weren’t being communicative enough.”

The other glaring weakness came in transition: Johns Hopkins capitalized numerous times on fast breaks. Of course, it didn’t help that the Wolverines turned the ball over 20 times, setting up those attempts with errant passing and sloppy penalties.

The midfield unit consistently struggled to get back and help sophomore goaltender Shane Carr, who registered just 11 saves.

“We have to make sure that we’re getting back,” Conry said. “Getting into that defensive mindset. Its just like we practice on a weekly basis. It’s certainly disappointing. We gave up a lot of opportunities in the middle of the field, and they cashed them. We certainly didn’t cash ours.

“Right now, we’re just losing it. We have to coach them up a lot better. Right now, at the end of the day, we’re just not getting it done.”

This stretch of losses has proven that Michigan isn’t just in a slump, or playing out of form — at this point it’s just not good enough. And any type of turnaround will have to start at the defensive end.