After starting the season 7-0 with a statement win against then-No. 5 Notre Dame, the No. 14 Michigan women’s lacrosse team began to falter in a close loss to Denver on March 13 and has now entered a four-game skid after Friday’s loss to unranked Ohio State.
Inconsistency has been the main storyline of the Wolverines’ late-season struggles. In each of their five losses, they have played at least three periods of solid lacrosse; however, they have not been able to steadily perform for the entire 60 minutes.
But in the midst of the team’s rough patch, senior midfielder Kaitlyn Mead has been a consistent strength across the board.
“It’s really nice to have a player where you know what you’re gonna get, and I think every game I know what I’m gonna get from Kaitlyn,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “It’s gonna be effort, it’s gonna be production, she’s gonna give her all, she’s gonna want to put the team on her back.”
The Wolverines’ captain has been a reliable player all season, but especially with two Michigan starters recently sidelined with injuries, Mead has stepped up as a leader and performer. From draw control wins, to defensive stops, to offensive production, Mead has served as a consistent backbone of the team, playing a large role in keeping tough games within reach.
“She’s doing it all,” Nielsen said. “I think she’s carrying a lot of weight in the absence of those players. Last game she had nine draw controls, today she had five, (and) a couple caused turnovers. She’s giving it her all.”
Draw controls have been one of Mead’s biggest strengths all season. Against Denver, Mead won six of them to bring her to 100 total on her career, a milestone reached by just four other players in program history. Additionally, in Michigan’s loss to then-No. 17 USC, Mead won nine draw controls, which ranks second in the program’s single-game history.
In Friday’s matchup against the Buckeyes, Mead often fought for draw controls against Ohio State’s Chloë Johnson, who ranks sixth in the nation in that category. Mead rose to the challenge, recording five draw control wins on the night.
Mead was not the flashiest Wolverine on the field against the Buckeyes. She did tally a late-game goal off of a free position shot, but most of her production came on the back end. In addition to her draw control wins, she recorded two assists on the night and showed strength on defense with two forced turnovers and two ground balls.
“She’s a senior, she’s worked very hard as a younger player to get there,” Nielsen said. “It’s reassuring and I’m proud of her for where she’s come to and what she’s doing this year.”
Despite Mead’s dependable production, Michigan has not been able to break through its inconsistent play. Moving into their final two games before the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines are looking to match Mead’s personal success on a team level.
“To know what you’re gonna get is really nice, and I think that’s where some of the inconsistencies lie with our performance,” Nielsen said. “Not every player is playing as consistent as (Mead) is and that’s obviously the goal.
“She’s giving it her all, but you need more than one player doing that.”