For the Michigan men’s lacrosse team, Saturday was another reminder of the rigor of playing a Big Ten-only schedule this season. After a promising start, Michigan fell victim to Johns Hopkins’ relentless pressure on defense and plethora of talent on offense. Turnovers and overall inconsistency dug the Wolverines a hole that was impossible to climb out of, indicative of the young team that Michigan’s coaching staff has put together.
That youth, though, leads to a tricky situation. Although they have recruited extraordinarily well in recent years and believe the program is trending upwards, there remains a lot of work to be done.
The Wolverines’ talented youth have been on full display so far this season, but their efforts have not been enough to best opponents in the Big Ten gauntlet. Freshman attackman Michael Boehm recorded two goals and an assist, yet, neither Boehm nor the rest of the Wolverines’ offense generated much after the first quarter.
Aside from Boehm, a lone bright spot on offense was graduate midfielder Avery Myers in Michigan’s 14-7 loss to the Blue Jays. Myers had two goals on the day: one of them was a buzzer-beater to end the first half. He gave the Wolverines some much-needed momentum going into the locker room, but again they could not capitalize on this opportunity.
Despite their struggles, the veteran leadership has remained positive. They know that they must help bring along their inexperienced underclassmen.
“I think everyone on this team is very confident in the group we have together,” Myers said. “There’s stuff we need to clean up in order to put that finished product on the field, but I think everyone on this team does and should have the utmost confidence.”
Saturday was another outing where the usual stars, junior Bryce Clay and seniors Alex Buckanavage and Kevin Mack, were held in check. Even sophomore Josh Zawada didn’t score a goal, despite having two assists. Before the season, the offense was considered to be the team’s strongest unit. Saturday, they barely held onto the ball.
The Wolverines went 18 for 22 in the clearing game, but the offense did not maximize these possessions. After the first quarter, Michigan often either turned the ball over or failed to put a quality shot on net.
“Twenty-one turnovers. That’s a lot of second-chance opportunities (for Johns Hopkins),” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “I don’t think we’re in good enough shape, defensively, to handle that.”
The defense further highlights the Wolverines’ youth. Freshmen defensemen Brendan McCabe and Jack Whitney made key plays on defense despite the loss. Whitney caused a turnover and McCabe recorded two ground balls. Most notably, however, were glimpses of great one on one defense. It is a talented group, but mental lapses like late slides and unconfident ball-handling marred the afternoon overall.
Despite its struggles, Michigan has maintained a positive mindset through the first two weeks of the season. Everyone on the team still appears committed to Conry’s mission. An example of this is senior midfielder Buckanavage. Despite only notching one point through two games so far, Buckanavage ran a few shifts on the defensive end on Saturday. Even when his offense was not clicking, he still found a way to contribute on the field. But perhaps more importantly, Buckanavage has found ways to contribute off the field.
“We have some very, very talented underclassmen. They wouldn’t be in the position they are in today without our seniors,” Myers said. “Alex Buckanavage and Kevin Mack are always in guys’ ears, making sure they have the confidence to go out there.”
The deep relationship between the older and younger players is something that the team has praised. Yet seemingly, every time the Wolverines needed a score or a stop, they failed to cash in. Johns Hopkins was more capable of controlling momentum and playing at its own pace. That being said, hope is not lost for Michigan.
“I think this team is as good as any team in the country,” Conry said. “It’s just, right now, we’re making too many mistakes at key moments. That’s what’s killing us.”
The belief is there for the Wolverines. They are a group that likes their odds against anybody in the country.
“Everyone in this locker room knows we’re gonna turn this season around,” Myers said. “We’re right on the verge of clicking.”
The scoreboard may not reflect it, but this is a team to watch moving forward. Michigan has the pieces. Now, they have to put them together.
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