The Michigan men’s lacrosse team entered Saturday afternoon with the Big Ten’s highest-scoring offense at 21.5 goals per game, good for third in the nation. The question was whether they could continue this hot streak against Holy Cross.
The answer? A resounding yes.
The Wolverines (3-0) defeated the Crusaders (0-3), 20-3, notching their third consecutive game with 20 goals or more. Michigan’s high-powered offense was characterized by remarkably unselfish play and a willingness to move the ball quickly. By the end of the game, five different Wolverines recorded four points or more, with nine others joining them on the score sheet.
“Part of our identity is just (to be) an unselfish group, and I think we’ve been able to really rely on three guys over the first two games,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “Today, it seems like we got more scoring across the board.”
Halfway through the first quarter, the Wolverines jumped out to a 5-0 lead, setting a tone for how the rest of the game would unfold. Sophomore attackman Michael Boehm opened the scoring on a righty wrap-around goal from behind the net. Thirty seconds later, junior midfielder Jake Bonomi scored on a dodge down the right alley, the assist coming from sophomore midfielder Isaac Aaronson.
Sophomore midfielder Jacob Jackson would then convert a lefty step-down shot off of a beautiful cross-field skip pass by freshman attackman Ryan Cohen. Bonomi and Cohen had the next two goals, junior attackman Josh Zawada feeding Bonomi and Bonomi feeding Cohen.
The Wolverine goals were coming fast with no signs of the letting up on the horizon.
At halftime, Michigan led 8-0, earning a first half shutout for the first time in program history. This trend would continue into the second half, ultimately resulting in a 20-3 victory, the lowest number of goals ever allowed in a game by the Wolverines.
One highlight-worthy goal came towards the end of the third quarter. Senior defenseman Zach Johnson took the ball into the offensive end on the clear and found Zawada on the wing. Zawada hitched, causing his defender to lean the wrong way just enough to drive to the middle of the field and finish through contact.
Zawada, the nation’s leading scorer — and now only two points shy of becoming the quickest Wolverine ever to 100 points — once again led Michigan with six points on four goals and two assists. Bonomi followed with five points, while Jackson, Cohen, and freshman midfielder Aidan Mulholland all had four tallies. An impressive 14 of the team’s 20 goals were assisted. Jackson, who had recently been moved from the first midfield line to the second, had a breakout game, scoring an efficient four goals on five shots.
“It’s good to see Jacob can four goals, he’s been a little bit on the schneid (of late),” Conry said. “He’s been putting a lot of time and effort in the shooting room to get his stroke going, so (we’re) certainly pleased to see him back in the scoring column.”
Bonomi served as the primary catalyst for the Wolverines’ dynamic offense, beginning many offensive possessions with a dodge from up top. He frequently either created separation to get his hands free and shoot, or commanded a slide from a help defender, opening up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
“Jake always does a great job,” Conry said. “We put him out of the box last so that he can come out hard. When he comes out of the box, he comes out with his hair on fire. He does so many little things for this program that (go) unrecognized too often.”
Defensively, Michigan held its matchups exceptionally well, rarely allowing marks to get topside. The Crusaders, led by midfielder Kilian Morrissey with two goals, were only able to muster 11 total shots on goal. In limited opportunities, freshman goalie Shane Carr was strong, making eight saves, while sophomore defenseman Jack Whitney induced a team-high three turnovers from Holy Cross players.
Also noteworthy, was the Wolverines’ trust in their short-stick defensive midfielders to operate on an island and not slide to them unless absolutely necessary.
“We have a really good D-middie group,” senior defender Andrew Darby said. “I think D-middie is probably the hardest position in lacrosse, so those guys have to work their butt off. They do extra footwork, they’re always going to film. It pays off and having them is really helpful.”
Intensity is a point of emphasis for Michigan and despite the strong start to the game, there was a point in the second quarter when Conry felt that his team was letting off the gas. He challenged his players to respond.
“(Our brand is) very unselfish, very detail-oriented, a group that’s gritty,” Conry said. “I give our guys a lot of credit, they rallied and… put a really strong second half performance together. So, (I’m) proud of the group.”
Resiliency remains a calling card for this Michigan team and will no doubt be key to extending this historic early season run.