Lacrosse is a game of possession, and success starts with the basics. Fundamentals beat flash.
The Michigan men’s lacrosse team was reminded of the importance of fundamentals Saturday after traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., for the second time in program history. Heading home with a 20-10 loss against No. 6 North Carolina left the Wolverines looking at one specific area in need of improvement.
“Ground balls,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “If I were to pick out one thing that we need to work on this week, that’s it. We really dominated the draw, we just couldn’t pick up ground balls. That was true all over the field today.”
Though Michigan played the majority of the game in its defensive end, co-captain and senior attackman Kyle Jackson led the offense with four goals. His offensive surge began within minutes of the game’s start.
With the Wolverines down, 7-3, at the start of the second period, Jackson turned up the heat with two goals within the first three minutes to cut the Tar Heels’ lead in half. But Michigan was unable to keep the margin close, as the Tar Heels answered with three consecutive goals.
Jackson scored again with 5:52 left in the second period, but once again, North Carolina responded with a goal to make it 10-6 with three minutes left in the half.
Jackson was a force on the field and played a major role in keeping Michigan’s momentum up throughout the first half, and the Wolverines trailed by just four at the halftime break. Another offensive leader was Ian King, who racked up 2 goals and 3 assists throughout the game.
While Michigan kept it close for most of the first half, North Carolina started to pull away in the third period. The Tar Heels dominated ground balls, 13-1, added three goals and shut out the Wolverines in the period.
“A lot of the third quarter, we really didn’t have the ball, so we weren’t getting as much of a flow offensively,” Jackson said.
In the fourth period, North Carolina continued its offensive surge with four more unanswered goals. Freshman midfielder Decker Curran ended North Carolina’s run with his first career goal, assisted by junior midfielder Mikie Schlosser. With 9:14 left in the game, the two teams traded goals until the game ended with a final score of 20-10.
Even though the outcome was not ideal, the team is using Saturday’s loss as a way to gauge which aspects of the game they need to work on.
“There were some things that we need to take a hard look at that were apparent in this game,” Paul said. “Hopefully, we can use this as a tool to continue to get better.”
Mental toughness is one thing Paul believes his team needs to develop more as they head into rest of the season.
On the technical side, the Wolverines will go back to the basics with ground ball practice as they prepare to meet Colgate next Sunday.
“Ground balls are a pretty good measure of toughness,” Paul said. “I think all our guys would agree that was something we had to be better at.”
Playing an elite program, such as North Carolina, was an opportunity for the Wolverines to test their abilities, and though the loss wasn’t pretty, the team is still looking positively at its prospects this season.
“I know that everyone worked as hard as they could, but obviously we can improve in a couple aspects of the game. The guys worked hard, and we can only move on from here,” Jackson said.