After a fourth straight loss for coach Kevin Conry and one of the youngest teams in the nation, it is all about patience. The Wolverines have fought their way through the 25th hardest schedule in the nation, and come out with their heads held high.
In a 20-12 loss to No. 1 Maryland, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team encountered yet another national championship caliber team in the loaded Big Ten, but this time, it left with a sense of satisfaction. The game was rarely close after the first quarter, but in simply running with the Terrapins, the Wolverines found a meaningful positive amidst of a whirlwind of losses.
Michigan may have not walked out of Saturday’s contest with a win, but the Wolverines are young, fresh and moving in the right direction.
“I don’t see a team (in the country) that can compete with Maryland right now,” Conry said. “I just don’t. They beat the second best team in the country by what, a thousand goals?”
Not quite — it was 23-12.
“Yeah, well, we did better than Virginia,” Conry continued. “These little victories that we have in our hip pockets are going to be what we’re trying to build off of.”
For Michigan, Saturday’s game was more than gawking at a win-loss column. If it wants to move forward and mature, it must start by looking at the bright spots. And even as the Wolverines went through entire quarters where it was evident that true freshmen were on the field, there were bright spots — especially offensively.
A talented trio of underclassmen — freshman attacker Ryan Cohen, sophomore attacker Michael Boehm and sophomore midfielder Isaac Aronson — combined for 15 total points. Though it was far from the offensive explosions Michigan registered earlier in the year, the Wolverines logged 12 goals against the third-best defensive team in the nation — tied for the second-most against the Terrapins all season.
“We’re a very close group of guys,” Aronson said. “I think it shows on the field. We have very good relationships off the field. Whether we’re getting food, or hanging out, or putting in extra work together. I think all of that comes together when you step out on the field.”
Part of that growth has come in just a single week. After a sloppy offensive performance against Johns Hopkins, the Wolverines ran a more tempoed attack against Maryland, working to shoot later in the shot clock, rather than scrambling for open looks. This patience is a welcome shift for a team that failed to put up double-digit goals in two of the last three games.
“I think that today we made another stride,” Aronson said. “We had a lot of shots in the back half of the shot clock … and we’re going to keep growing week by week, and continue to get better and just learn from it.”
If frustration was going to set in this season for Michigan, it would have already happened, riding a four game losing streak after starting the season 7-0. But the Wolverines have bought in, and they are ready to see what they can be. On the precipice of hosting its first Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal, every victory matters —even the ones that don’t make it into the win column.
For such a young group, the Wolverines know there’s a bigger picture.
“Look at what Maryland is doing,” Conry said. “Most of those guys are graduate school transfers, fifth year seniors. I mean the average age must be like, what, 23? So we’re not here to buy ourselves a Big Ten Championship through the free agent market.
“We’re building something here. And we’re building from the ground up.”
Michigan might not get where it wants to be tomorrow, but with performances like Saturday’s it gets closer every day.