The Michigan men’s lacrosse team is led by a combined six seniors and graduate students.
Johns Hopkins has 18.
In a tug of war matchup that saw four lead changes, two ties and over a quarter without consecutive goals by a single team, Michigan (7-3 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) looked green in a 15-12 loss to a veteran, gritty Johns Hopkins (5-5, 1-0).
After their third straight loss this season, long gone are the days of roughhousing low-major Division 1 programs for the formerly 7-0 Wolverines.
Nevertheless, Michigan has faced adversity before. Coming off a character-building 3-9 Big-Ten-only 2021 season it understands it cannot get by on talent and talent alone, yet the results have not materialized.
Whether through missed opportunities or inexperience, the Wolverines have room to grow.
“We got a bunch of young kids running around out there.” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “We’re still trying to figure out our way in terms of how to be competitive and how to execute. Johns Hopkins did what Johns Hopkins needed to do. We need to do what we need to do a lot better.”
One of the youngest teams in the NCAA, Michigan ran into a Blue Jays program that defines itself by veteranship and resilience. Fighting through the third hardest schedule in the country, Johns Hopkins has the backbone to execute in high pressure situations.
In the waning minutes of the first quarter, Michigan led 4-2, yet failed to convert on a man-advantage holding penalty. The Wolverines finished 0-3 on power play opportunities.
The Blue Jays did not let these same opportunities go to waste. Four minutes, eight shots and two goals later, they tied the game 4-4 on a man-advantage goal, finishing 2-3 on power plays for the day. In a game decided by only three goals, Michigan’s inability to jump on chances handcuffed its ability to succeed.
“There were plays to be made.” Conry said. “We had plenty of our hands-free opportunities. You reel back the tape and you really dive into that, there was one team that made plays when their hands were free, and one team that didn’t. Right now we’re playing very tentatively and we ran into a group that didn’t. We got a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do.”
However, there were flashes when this work seemed closer to fruition.
Coming out of the halftime break down 8-5, the youthful Wolverines refused to concede, playing one of their grittiest quarters of the season. They scored five goals in 15 minutes, cutting the deficit to 11-10 with eight minutes left in the fourth period of play.
But, for two teams that were relatively even in terms of talent, Johns Hopkins has simply just been there before – and that mattered. Right as Michigan seemed to have all the momentum in its favor, the battle-tested Blue Jays held firm, and caught the Wolverines slipping.
After Blue Jay midfielder Johnathan Peshko ripped a shot past sophomore goalie Shane Carr to put Johns Hopkins up 12-10, Michigan surged back one final time, sprinting across the field at a blistering speed, and shelling goaltender Josh Kirson to cut the deficit back to one.
But then a whistle sounded, declaring the Wolverines offside. No goal.
That call encapsulated the Michigan’s entire three game losing spurt, it was that right there. Talented, potent and unstoppable when it wants to be, the Wolverines have yet to get out of their own way against similar competition.
Deflated, Michigan collapsed in the fourth quarter – akin to Notre Dame last week, conceding another three goals for a 15-10 Johns Hopkins lead. The Wolverines would chip in two goals in the final minute, but the damage was already done in a game that felt as though it could have gone an entirely different way.
“Right now we’re just not playing up to our standards.” Conry said. “That should be the big quote of the day. The headline: we’re not playing up to our standards.”