It had been a tough stretch for the Michigan women’s lacrosse team going into a home game against Niagara on Tuesday. The Wolverines were coming off a three-game losing streak, which included a blowout loss to No. 16 Northwestern.
For a moment against the Purple Eagles (2-2 Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference, 6-6 overall), it looked as though it might be another tough outing for the Wolverines (0-2 Big Ten, 6-8 overall). Their offense came out sputtering, and nearing the midpoint mark of the first half, they were still scoreless. Then, with 16:02 remaining in the half, junior attacker Tess Korten struck first and Michigan never looked back, winning 13-1.
“I think (this win is) incredibly important for our program and for these women who work hard every single day,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla. “It always comes back to us trying to grow from every experience and get better every single day. When you’re building a program, it’s not easy and it takes time. It’s a journey. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Korten was at the center of Michigan’s offensive efforts all game, with three goals and one assist.
The offensive production didn’t stop with her, though. Seven different players scored goals for the Wolverines, including junior attacker Kelly Schlansker, who matched Korten’s goal output. The pair finished as the game’s highest scorers.
“I was just really happy with the offense in general,” Ulehla said. “So many different people had opportunities and took advantage of them and scored.”
Not to be outdone by the offense, Michigan’s defense stepped up as well. It forced 20 turnovers and held Niagara to only one goal. The effort matched the best defensive output in the history of the Wolverines’ three-year-old program.
“Defense has got to be a strong unit, and they didn’t play individually today,” Ulehla said. “There was a little bit of a breakdown at one point, but then they regrouped. I thought that the 77 defense was strong, the goalie performances were strong and I thought we did a great job in our transitional defense as well.”
The tough stretch prior to the game wasn’t the first of the season for Michigan, as it had another three-game losing skid from March 4 to March 18, eventually halted by a 9-4 win over Duquesne.
Now, the focus turns to maintaining this momentum and stringing together some wins. But the schedule doesn’t get easier for the Wolverines. They will host No. 12 Penn State on Sunday before No. 1 Maryland comes to Ann Arbor the week after.
“(The win) definitely was important for the team morale and to get everyone back on the same page, to know we have something to work towards,” Korten said. “We have two, three big games coming up and then the Big Ten playoff season to look forward to.”
Added Ulehla: “(It’s) just great for camaraderie, and (we can) feel the big pressure off our back. We know what’s coming this weekend: Penn State. We know we’ve got to get back to business.”
If the Wolverines are able to get back to business and fire on all cylinders like they did Tuesday, perhaps they may earn their first win over a ranked team in program history.