The Wolverines couldn’t have started much better.
Between the pipes, Gunner Garn repelled Maryland’s first four shots on goal. Off a man-advantage, Brent Noseworthy found a pocket in the Terrapin defense and fired a shot into the top corner.
For a team that had lost its past five games, Michigan looked surprisingly comfortable early on, its offense and defense working in harmony for the first fifteen minutes.
Unfortunately for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team (3-7 overall, 0-2 Big Ten), the quick start was short-lived as No. 2 Maryland (9-2, 1-0) eventually kicked it into high gear en route to a 16-12 win.
Despite their early-season struggles, the Wolverines came out firing on all cylinders. Senior goalie Gunner Garn was composed in net and Michigan’s defense, led by senior defender Nick DeCaprio, frustrated the high-powered Terrapins.
On the other end, two goals from sophomore attacker Alex Buckanavage gave the Wolverines a brief lead before Maryland tied the game at three in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
“We have four weeks left in the season and we wanted to play like those four weeks were the last weeks we had in our lacrosse careers,” said Michigan coach Kevin Conry. “We came out and competed and played a lot of good lacrosse.”
The tide changed in the second quarter. The Terrapins dominated possession and had nine shots on goal in the period — compared to Michigan’s four. Of these nine shots, seven found the back of the net as attacker Jared Bernhardt and midfielder Logan Wisnauskas each scored two.
With their top three faceoff specialists injured, the Wolverines managed just two faceoff wins in the second quarter and seven the entire game. With limited offensive opportunities, Michigan couldn’t mount much resistance to Maryland’s second-quarter onslaught and entered the half down, 10-4.
The Wolverines came out of the half in much the same way they started the game. They looked dangerous offensively and even though they were still losing faceoffs, their hard-nosed defense suffocated Maryland’s attack.
“When you lose one faceoff guy, you obviously have to adjust,” Conry said. “But when you lose all three of your faceoff guys, you really have to revamp and reinvent yourselves. The numbers may not be in our favor in terms of faceoff wins and losses, but we don’t really count that, we look at how many times we get the ball back.”
After one of the few faceoff wins for Michigan, the Wolverines — down just three goals — controlled the ball deep into the shot-clock. From the top of the attack, Buckanavage skipped a pass to senior midfielder Decker Curran, who dodged inside the rotating defender and sprawled out in front of goal, sneaking the ball past Maryland’s Danny Dolan. Curran’s goal was the final act of a third quarter in which the Wolverines outscored the Terrapins, 5-1.
Stifled by Michigan’s defense, Maryland was confused and lethargic in the third quarter. When the Terrapins emerged from their huddle to start the fourth, they were anything but. The tag-team of Bernhardt and Wisnauskas — which tallied ten goals on the day — went to work once again. Five minutes into the quarter, Wisnauskas found a cutting Bernhardt to restore a four-goal advantage and put the game away.
“Jared (Bernhardt) is very athletic and any time he is in space, he can obviously create for himself,” Conry said. “I really believe he’s the best player in the country. And then Logan Wisnauskas is just a great shooter. I think there were a couple ones that Gunner would like to have back, but when you let great players like them get their hands free and get into positions where they excel, they usually can it.”
The Wolverines would add a few goals late thanks to Buckanavage and sophomore attacker Kevin Mack, but it was too little, too late. The Terrapins dominated the game when they had to, staving off a resilient Michigan team, which has now lost six games in a row.