Late offensive surge not enough as Michigan lacrosse falls to Air Force

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By Jared Molk, For the Daily
Published March 31, 2013

If you blinked, you would’ve missed it – an offensive flurry that saw the Michigan lacrosse team score three goals in a matter of 41 seconds late in the third period. Unfortunately for Michigan, though, it was too little, too late, as it fell to Air Force (1-3 ECAC, 5-5 overall), 10-6, in the Big House on Saturday.

For Michigan (0-4, 0-10), the loss was a tale of two teams. One was a crisp and tactile offensive unit with the ability to score at will, while the other was an inexperienced and overmatched squad trying to catch its breath.

Michigan came out strong early, with sophomore attackman Will Meter scoring the first goal of the game against Air Force’s tough zone defense.

“We loved the way we were playing in the first quarter,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “We liked the pace of the game and liked the possessions we were getting.”

The Wolverines played the Falcons to a 1-1 draw in the first quarter, where they maintained lengthy offensive possessions despite facing a zone defense for the first time all season.

In the second period, though, Michigan’s youth and inexperience caught up to it. Air Force dominated the quarter, winning virtually every statistical battle – notably outshooting the Wolverines 17-2 and winning four out of five faceoffs. The faceoff victories allowed the Falcons to dominate possession for the entire period.

Michigan was also plagued by sloppy turnovers, going 1-3 on the clear in the second period. This allowed Air Force to sustain lengthy offensive pushes and oftentimes gave them easy opportunities to score.

“I think we had two total offensive possessions that quarter,” Paul said. “That was just too many of those mistakes in the same quarter.”

The sloppy play that plagued the Wolverines in the second period lingered into the start of the third, allowing Air Force to turn a 5-1 halftime lead into a 9-1 lead with 6:30 to play in the third period.

After the Falcons were called for an illegal body check with 4:23 remaining in the third quarter, Michigan had its first man up opportunity of the game. This prompted Paul to call a timeout and talk to his young team.

The Wolverines that went into that timeout weren’t the same as the ones who came out of it.

A man-up goal from freshman attackman Mike Hernandez started a 41-second frenzy during which Michigan scored three quick goals.

The Wolverines carried that momentum into the fourth quarter, outhustling and outplaying Air Force in the last 15 minutes.

“After we got that first goal and made it 9-2, everyone starting getting into a lot more,” said freshman attackman Kyle Jackson. “Things started rolling, and the environment got a lot better.”

Late in the game, Michigan seemed to figure out the zone defense that had baffled them offensively for much of the game. Sharp passing set the Wolverines up to pepper Air Force goalie Austin Fox with shots, as they outshot the Falcons 28-10 in the final two periods.

Michigan showed real potential for the future, with all six goals being scored by underclassmen – two each from Meter, Jackson and freshman midfielder Mike Hernandez.

“Our future is bright and we know that,” Paul said.

Though the Wolverines remain winless on the year, the game represented an important lesson in playing through adversity for a young team.

“I like the way that we fought back at the end,” Paul said. “That fourth quarter is the hardest we have played all year. Now they know they have that in them. We take away from this game that we can come back in games, we just can’t dig that deep a hole.”