Six minutes — that’s all that stood between the Michigan women’s lacrosse team and a program-defining upset win against No. 7 Florida on Saturday.
But during those six minutes, the Wolverines watched their lead, and potential first-ever win against a ranked opponent, slip away.
Florida’s comeback started when attacker Shayna Pirreca scored an unassisted goal to narrow Michigan’s lead. Just 45 seconds later, Pirreca scored another goal to shrink the Gators’ deficit to one goal, and 30 seconds after that, Pirreca scored her third straight unassisted goal to tie the game at 11. The Wolverines’ lead had vanished.
“You slow down for five minutes, and they’re going to catch up,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla. “That’s an Xs and Os thing, and that’s on me as a coach to make sure we’re focusing on those things in practice.”
With four and a half minutes remaining, and all the momentum on the Gator sideline, the Wolverines were forced to be on the defensive for the rest of the game. Florida was able to consistently hold the ball, taking a few shots in the process. As each second passed, Michigan’s once-solid lead was a fleeting memory. With 10 seconds remaining, and overtime seeming like a possible refuge from the disaster of the final six minutes, attacker Sammi Burgess fired a lethal shot into the back of the net, giving Florida a 12-11 lead.
Michigan managed to win the final faceoff, and, with time expiring, junior attacker Jess Angerman fired a shot at the net. But the shot went wide. Time expired, and with it went the Wolverines’ hopes for the program’s biggest win ever.
Despite the heartbreak, the loss was a promising result for a program that is only in its third year competing in Division I. In the past two years combined, Michigan lost to the Gators by a combined score of 41-4.
“The program has come so far since the last time we played Florida,” Ulehla said. “Are we disappointed about the loss? Most definitely. But for us, this program took big strides today. Nationally, as far as gaining respect, we’re a program to be reckoned with. We’re definitely looking forward to this season and getting better and better as each game goes by.”
Michigan (1-1) opened up its second game of the season strong, with two early back-to-back goals by junior midfielders Madeline Dion and Anna Schueler to seize a 2-0 lead in Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators tallied three goals in three minutes to reclaim a 3-2 lead. The Wolverines responded just as strongly, though, scoring two goals to take the lead back at 4-3. Florida had the upper-hand for the rest of the half, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 7-4 lead, before a late goal by Angerman narrowed the Gators’ lead to 7-5 at halftime.
“I think just the fact that we really competed (stood out), every single one of us,” Ulehla said. “Normally, when you look at the stats, it’s very clear as to who our big guns are, and today that’s not the case. This, overall, was just a great team performance.”
After a quick goal 10 seconds into the second half, the Gators held an even bigger 8-5 lead. Yet the goal also managed to have another effect: waking up the Wolverines’ offense.
Junior midfielder Kim Coughlan started the comeback for Michigan, scoring her first goal of the game to narrow the deficit to 8-6. Within the next minute, junior attackers Lauren Oberlander and Tess Korten both scored to tie the game at eight.
But the Wolverines weren’t finished yet. After eight minutes of scoreless play, junior attacker Allie Breitfeller found twine to give Michigan its first lead since the 14-minute mark of first half.
Following four more minutes of scoreless play, the Wolverines further added to their lead. Oberlander and Coughlan each scored an unassisted goal to take an 11-8 lead. On the verge of a historic upset, all Michigan had to do was survive the final 10 minutes.
Four minutes ticked off the clock. The Wolverines were still holding strong with a three-goal lead.
But from there, it went all downhill. Six minutes proved to be too much.