Harvard frustrated the No. 13 men's lacrosse team at both ends of the field on Saturday. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

On Saturday, the No. 13 Michigan men’s lacrosse team had an opportunity to continue its historic undefeated run. With a win, the Wolverines would tie the program record for wins in a season before playing a single conference game. 

None of that happened.

Michigan (7-1 overall) came out flat, falling 13-9 to Harvard (3-1) in its first loss of the season. The Wolverines struggled to compete at both ends in a game defined by defensive lapses and offensive inefficiencies.

“I don’t think you saw Michigan lacrosse out there,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “I think that was a version we had moved past.”

Leading up to Saturday’s game, it looked like they were rewriting their reputation. The historically mediocre program led the nation in scoring on offense and defense, and it really seemed like the disappointments of the 2021 season were long gone. 

Such feelings took a pause, however, as Michigan faced an aggressive Harvard squad that dominated for all 60 minutes. 

The Wolverines certainly got their chances, outshooting the Crimson 51-40 and going into halftime down only two goals, but the shots weren’t finding the back of the net. Offensive woes largely stemmed from Harvard’s high-motored defensive discipline.

The Crimson frequently forced the Wolverines to run through large chunks of the shot clock, and they couldn’t set up clear looks at the goal. Even when they could muster shots, they were of low quality. 

“They took us out of our game,” senior defenseman Jackson Zaugg said. “We weren’t able to bounce back. That was disappointing.”

Despite a strong effort from sophomore goal keeper Shane Carr, who finished with 15 saves, Michigan’s performance on defense was somehow even worse than its attack. It couldn’t string together stops and allowed Harvard 28 shots on goal.

Numerous miscommunications kept the Wolverines from working their way back into the game. Their missteps afforded the Crimson’s attacking duo of Hayden Cheek and Sam King a combined 12 shots on goal — leading to six points between the two. 

“We didn’t execute a plan,” Conry said. “We were soft on the interior. We talked about being tight on the inside, … but we weren’t playing the ball particularly well, or executing anything that we had been practicing.”

Michigan’s own attacking duo of sophomore Michael Boehm and junior Josh Zawada played well when they were able to hold onto the ball, but passive offensive sets rendered the two far less effective against the physical Harvard defense. The two combined for five points off of 18 shots, their least productive outing this season. 

Boehm was the brightest spot for the Wolverines, moving the ball and taking good shots in all four quarters. Zaugg emphasized his importance to Michigan moving forward:

“(Boehm’s) a leader as a sophomore and gets everyone on the team going,” Zaugg said. “But I want to see him step up his leadership. Sometimes I can tell he wants to put himself out there more, so we’d like to see him do that a little bit. Guys really do look to him as an energy bunny on this team. He’s a huge asset.”

After their subpar performance Saturday, the Wolverines will need leadership from somewhere to get back on track. The team looked unmotivated and unfocused, hanging their heads on the sideline and struggling to keep up in every phase of the game.

“(Harvard) wanted it more,” Zaugg said. “I think it was a good gut check for us.”