The sport of lacrosse is speeding up, and Michigan is poised to capitalize on new shot-clock regulations as it amps up for the 2019 season.
In an attempt to accelerate the pace of the game and facilitate a more exciting, aggressive play strategy, NCAA rulemakers have followed professional lacrosse leagues by implementing an 80-second shot clock for the upcoming men’s lacrosse season.
“We want to play a more up-tempo style,” said Michigan coach Kevin Conry. “We have the horses to do it.”
Conry’s “horses” include nine of 10 returning starters from last season, who accounted for 87 percent of the team’s offensive productivity in 2018.
“(They) have a good sense of where the ball should go and when it should go there,” said Conry.
After tying the program’s single-season win record with eight in his first season at the helm of the Wolverines’ coaching staff, Conry is eager to test out the new rules and more fast-paced playing philosophies with his experienced core.
Of the returning starters, most notable is senior midfielder Brent Noseworthy, the first USILA All-American in team history and a 2019 preseason All-Big Ten honoree. In 2018, Noseworthy led the team with 48 points and 41 goals, propelling the Wolverines to signature wins over highly-ranked opponents Notre Dame and Penn State.
Behind the goal at X is sophomore attackman Kevin Mack, who could be poised for another successful campaign as the quarterback of the Michigan offense following a breakout freshman season, in which he led the team with 21 assists. Despite his relative youth, Mack has already proven to be a leader and force of nature on the field.
“Behind the net, seeing what the defense is doing to us … it gives (me) good perspective,” Mack said. “I can be a leader in communication.”
On the other side of the field, senior defenseman Nick DeCaprio, who led the Big Ten with 23 caused turnovers last year and led the Wolverines with 46 ground balls, is primed to be Michigan’s top defender. Between the pipes is graduate student goalie Tommy Heidt, who missed the first six games of the 2018 season but retains his starting job going into 2019.
In front of Heidt, the Wolverines defense has adjusted well to the quickened pace of the game in practices and exhibitions.
“Our defense is playing better with it,” praised Mack. “(They are) really good at locking teams down.”
Dark horses in a challenging Big Ten conference, Michigan has finished last in the conference the past three seasons but seeks to run the table against East-Coast lacrosse powerhouses like 2017 NCAA champion Maryland and historically-dominant Johns Hopkins.
New to the Wolverines assistant coaching staff is Major League Lacrosse midfielder and Duke graduate Justin Turri. Conry has praised Turri since his arrival in Ann Arbor.
“He has a lot of experience with shot clock (management). He’s a great developer,” Conry said. “He’s a guy who can take our guys, make them good players, and take them one step further to greatness.”
With a strong veteran player presence and the addition of Turri, Conry is very hopeful for what will come of the 2019 season and his experienced roster.
“The game is much faster (now),” Conry said. “But we can’t get caught up in it.”