Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence but three times is a pattern for a Michigan men’s lacrosse team that continues to drop crucial games in similar fashion.
The same story that has been told over and over again for the Wolverines this season unfolded Sunday night. Michigan (7-7 overall, 0-5 Big Ten) found itself down early, only to battle back, pulling close in the final seconds, and eventually coming up short in a 14-12 loss to rival Ohio State (9-4, 3-2).
In a performance eerily reminiscent of both Rutgers and Penn State in its previous two matchups, the Wolverines found themselves down early, trailing 6-0 with five minutes left in the first quarter. Buckeyes attackmen Jackson Reid and Jack Meyers looked ready from the opening whistle, combining for six points in the first frame of play.
Ohio State logged 11 shots in an excruciating quarter for Michigan. The Wolverines struggled to hold the ball as the Buckeyes dominated possession time, and mustered little response.
Michigan showed signs of life towards the end of the first, logging four quick goals to keep themselves in the game, but allowed three straight scores for Ohio State, which sunk the Wolverines to a 9-4 deficit with three minutes left in the half.
Their inability to harness momentum chronically hamstrings them. When Michigan eventually recaptured its groove, junior attackman Josh Zawada and sophomore attackman Michael Boehm notched two goals — assisting one another — and returning the game to an attainable three goal deficit: 9-6.
Coming out of the break with the field tilted their way, the Wolverines had the opportunity to surge. Yet less than one minute in, Buckeye midfielder Johnny Wiseman shattered that chance, netting a goal to put Ohio State back up four.
Michigan all but stalled from there as head coach Kevin Conry attempted to switch into defensive mode, shuttering sophomore offensive midfielder Justin Brown in favor of long-stick midfielders who could attempt to slow an unbridled Buckeye offense.
The consequences of this move would directly undermine the Wolverines’ offense.
Michigan logged just two goals in the first 23 minutes of the second half. In a moment where the team needed to employ the lessons it already learned in previous weeks, it seemed to take a step back. Instead of attempting to dictate the pace of play on their own terms, the Wolverines folded into unsuccessfully parrying a Buckeye onslaught.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Michigan had all but given up. Conry benched starting sophomore goaltender Shane Carr, and the Wolverines looked ready to board the bus home in their uniforms.
And then Michigan did what it has done best all season: it attempted a late game comback.
With eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines caught Ohio State laxing, and snuck back to a 14-10 deficit on a Zawada goal that pulled him within one point of the all-time program scoring record.
By the time the Buckeyes realized what was happening, it nearly cost them as Michigan pulled to within two goals with two and a half minutes to go.
But as they have all season, the Wolverines came up just short. Ohio State scrambled into recovery mode, stopping one final diving desperation shot by Zawada to seal the victory over a Michigan team that lost its way long ago.
The Wolverines now face a seven game losing streak, bringing them to 7-7 after a blistering 7-0 start to the season.
It has been 50 days since Michigan’s last victory. If it can’t produce a win next Saturday, the Wolverines will count the days until 2023.