Heading into Saturday’s game, there was uncertainty around which version of the No. 19 Michigan men’s lacrosse team would show up to play. Would it be the one that rattled off seven straight wins to start the season behind a high-powered attack and stingy defense? Or the sloppy, low-energy team that had been overwhelmed by Harvard the week prior?
It turned out to be the latter.
The Wolverines (7-2 overall) fell to No. 16 Notre Dame (2-3), 12-7, picking up their second consecutive loss. Michigan put up a fight at the defensive end, with sophomore goaltender Shane Carr tallying 17 saves, but its offense — once thought to be among the best in the nation — disappeared, putting little pressure on the Irish for all 60 minutes.
“We weren’t the hungrier team,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “(Notre Dame) came in and had been playing really strong competition but falling short, and we had been playing relatively easy competition. They physically set the tone for the game and we got pushed around.”
The Wolverines did get pushed around by the strong Irish defense, but were competitive early, leading 3-2 at the end of the first quarter. Their own defense looked disciplined, and on offense, sophomore attacker Michael Boehm set up freshman attacker Ryan Cohen with a pass into traffic for their first goal, then put one in himself on the next offensive possession. Michigan appeared comfortable and seemed ready to hang with Notre Dame for the rest of the game.
That all changed in the second quarter.
The Wolverines gave up six unanswered goals, and they couldn’t fend off the patient Notre Dame offense that held the ball for the vast majority of the period. Another strong outing from Carr wasn’t enough to keep the Wolverines in the game.
At the other end, Michigan’s attack struggled to create open looks and couldn’t put shots on net. Going into halftime, it had been out shot 31-17.
“I think if we had followed the game plan it would have looked more dialed,” Conry said. “It fell to the point where we gave up on dodges, then just moved the ball to the perimeter and started standing around. Early on we had quality looks but we just didn’t hammer the ball.
“We certainly had our opportunities but we just didn’t take advantage.”
Michigan saw more of those opportunities in the second half but couldn’t capitalize. Despite an uptick in shots — as well as a 16-7 edge in faceoffs — it struggled to make up ground.
Josh Zawada’s poor play contributed to the overall struggles. Despite coming into the game as the nation’s leading scorer, the junior attacker registered just one goal on eight shots. The goal came with under seven minutes left in the game to bring the Michigan deficit to six.
“When Josh is playing free, playing tough, and playing at a high level, we win,” Conry said. “And for two games he hasn’t.”
The loss certainly doesn’t rest entirely on Zawada’s shoulders, but his struggles highlight an alarming trend for the Wolverines — unreliability on offense.
“Right now we’re kind of in open tryout mode to see who wants to come out and give us a high ability to compete and to take ownership,” Conry said.
The message was clear: Michigan’s seven-game win streak now seems like a distant memory, and the Wolverines are now in dire need of a spark.