Building a program takes time. But how can you build amidst an avalanche of failure?
While the Michigan men’s lacrosse team has had some bright spots, they pale in comparison to the seven straight loss collapse this season.
Now, the team is one loss away from tying its all-time losing streak record of eight straight games. A string of losses they have not seen since 2019. And even in that season they beat rival Ohio State.
But I’m not done talking about the past just yet.
The University of Michigan hired coach Kevin Conry in June of 2017 after his successful campaign as the associate head coach of the 2017 national championship winning Maryland team.
The first three years of Conry’s tenure at Michigan came as expected. Developing a new program from the ground had different challenges than leading a perennially competitive Maryland squad. The Wolverines finished with a combined record of 16-18 overall and 2-8 against the Big Ten. His third season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the team entered Big Ten conference play.
Understandably, the team struggled as Conry attempted to implement his system, while simultaneously integrating players from his increasingly talented recruiting classes. The key to Michigan’s growth was time.
Time to recruit. Time to gel. Time to grow. Time to reach success.
After the time-consuming adjustment to the Conry Era, 2021 was a year of growing pains, but also of potential promise. Due to the pandemic, the Big Ten Conference elected to hold in-conference games only, pitting some of the very best in lacrosse up against one another grueling week after week. If there was time to grow, it was then.
Michigan finished a rough season with a record of 3-9, but ended play with what seemed like a promising sign at the time: upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten Quarterfinals. The Wolverines rebounded from a close loss to Maryland, an overtime loss to Penn State and a one goal short-coming to No. 8 Rutgers.
It sounds like the present.
Michigan has endured all the rough patches of last season. But unlike last season, they’ve had none of the rebounds. While, yes, they had more opportunities to beat Big Ten teams in 2021, finishing the season on a 0-7 run, while going 0-5 in the Big Ten is at best stagnation, but realistically, is a regression.
Forget the 7-0 run to start the season against weaker non-conference teams. It is long gone. Those teams currently boast a meager 24-65 record, with only one having a winning record.
The 0-7 run truly defines what the 2022 Michigan men’s lacrosse team is.
A team that despite four top recruiting classes under Conry’s supervision, a multitude of lacrosse’s brightest young stars, and accolades that came from bludgeoning noncompetitive teams, is unequivocally unable to get the job done.
But they won’t.
And at this point, does it even matter?
It is hard to beat a team twice. That is why, despite home-field advantage, perhaps Michigan will upset Ohio State after falling just short earlier this season. The Wolverines did it last year, after dropping two of the season series games earlier in 2021.
But that will not be the narrative that comes out of this season.
The narrative, no matter how strong of a run Michigan can string together this May, will always be defined by the epic collapse that occurred. It will be defined by a team that has continually had time to gel, to grow, time to reach success, but has yet to reach its potential.
Which begs the question: how much time does Michigan need?
Because time is running out.