While she talked to her assistant coaches after the women’s lacrosse team’s 18-8 loss to No. 1 Maryland on Saturday, Michigan coach Jennifer Ulehla could do nothing but scratch her head.
It had been that kind of day for the Wolverines.
After the Terrapins started the scoring with two goals, Michigan was able to respond with a goal from junior attacker Jess Angerman. But any positive momentum for the Wolverines was swiftly halted when Maryland rattled off six straight goals of its own to seize momentum Michigan could not overcome.
“We played hard,” Ulehla said. “We didn’t necessarily play as smart as we can. (Maryland has) a great offense, but our defense wasn’t as solid as we have been all season. From a standpoint of communication and playing as a unit, I thought we lacked a little bit of that.”
It was Maryland’s hard and aggressive play that plagued the Wolverines — they accumulated 31 fouls, dwarfing the 11 that the Terrapins committed. Two of those fouls resulted in extra-man opportunities for Maryland, who converted both of them.
One of the extra-man conversions came at a pivotal moment in the game. After the Terrapins opened up an 8-1 lead in the first half, the Wolverines started to mount a comeback. Another Angerman goal was sandwiched by junior midfielder Kim Coughlan’s 30th and 31st goals of the season to cut the lead to four goals.
Then, a yellow card to junior midfielder Madeline Dion gave Maryland a man-up advantage and the Terrapins capitalized, ending Michigan’s run.
“We came out, and obviously we did have a lot of fouls,” Dion said. “Our coach kind of brought us in and told us to stay aggressive. I think that’s what we struggle with — finding the balance between being aggressive and holding back a little bit with those fouls. But when our coach brought us in, she told us to just reign it in a little. Keep that intensity up, but don’t go swinging our sticks and stuff like that.”
Added Ulehla: “They have to learn how to get those emotions in check and have that energy work for us, as opposed to against us.”
There were some positives in the game for the Wolverines, though. The team controlled 18 of 27 ground balls in the game, a statistic that is a testament to the aggressive play that the coaching staff has been preaching.
Ulehla also praised her team’s work on the faceoff. Michigan won 10 of the 28 draws in the game.
“Against the No. 1 team in the country … that’s progress,” she said. “It’s not where we want to be, but it’s progress. So we’ll talk a little bit about the positives of that, but also where this program needs to go in order to compete at this level.”
The Wolverines will now travel to Piscataway next Saturday to face Rutgers in their regular-season finale with hopes of gaining some momentum before the Big Ten Tournament begins.
But if Michigan is unable to control its aggressive play like it was on Saturday, it may be in danger of being eliminated early in the postseason.