What a difference a year can make.
At least, that was the case for Michigan Coach Kevin Conry and the Michigan men’s lacrosse team.
A mere 50 weeks ago, the Wolverines were trounced in their opening game by then-No. 5 Maryland by a final score of 20-9. That game was a microcosm of the season. An inexperienced and often undermanned Michigan team finished just 3-9 on the year.
“I remember last year,” Conry said. “It was a trial on many levels.”
Yet, in the wake of a winter storm watch that pushed the Wolverines off of their home field and into neighboring Detroit Country Day school’s indoor stadium and facilities, Michigan (1-0 overall) began its quest to chart a new path in 2022, defeating Bellarmine (0-2), 22-13.
The Wolverines controlled the pace from the get-go and refused to look back. The Knights never held the lead, and only once captured a tie at 2-2 with seven minutes left in the first period.
The tie, though, was short lived. Just two minutes later, Bellarmine relinquished its closest margin of the day, giving up two consecutive goals to junior midfielder Jake Bonomi, who dominated the first half with seven shots. A leader on a young team that has only 11 seniors and graduate students, Bonomi set the tone for a group prepared for a new season.
“I think it really shows the mentality of this team, and the leadership of our group that we knew right off the bat Jake was hot and so we were going to get the ball to him pretty quick,” Conry said. “This group was excited to play and they’re dialed in and it was a great performance across the board.”
Early into the second period, Bellarmine attacker Brayden Brown ripped a shot past Michigan sophomore goaltender Shane Carr, to make it a 4-3 game. But it turned out to be their final goal of the first half. From then on the Knights were unable to stop the bleeding as the Wolverines scored six consecutive goals to go into the break with a 10-3 lead.
“After the first quarter, you could feel it coming,” Conry said. “But our shots weren’t falling yet, so once we did well in terms of the writing game, it really kind of opened it up.”
Michigan continued to open up, starting the second half with another three goals by Bonomi and sophomore attacker Michael Boehm, before Bellarmine could field a response. Bonomi and Boehm, the stars of the day, finished with a combined 10 goals, with the Wolverines’ junior attacker Josh Zawada chipping in another five.
Michigan carried this momentum through the rest of the frame as it continued to dominate, ending the third period with a commanding 18-6 lead.
“It doesn’t feel like a job,” Conry praised. “Guys are out there having fun every single day and when you’re doing that and still competing at a high level then you’ll just go and it just kind of builds, builds, builds.”
In the final period of action, Bellarmine mounted a rally, outscoring the Wolverines 7-4. But the effort proved futile.
For Conry, this win was one that he saw coming:
“It’s about the way we prepared and practiced this week and the way we’ve really approached this entire year since we got back in September.”
For a team that could not find a win until the fifth week of a bumpy 2021 season, had seven ranked losses and closed its regular season on a three game losing skid, this win held more weight than most.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Conry said. “I’m proud that we were able to get to 1-0. I’m proud of the momentum we got out of this game. It was a great performance across the board and I’m really proud of them.”