- File Photo/Daily
By Minh Doan, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 29, 2014
After years of dominance at the club level, the transition phase to a Division I contender has been a steep learning curve for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team.
But in its third season and with two recruiting classes under its belt, the team believes it’s ready to command respect from the rest of the nation.
Michigan coach John Paul believes this is finally the season that Team Three blossoms.
“Our first two years were overwhelmingly about building a culture,” Paul said. “Now, enough of that is done and we feel like we have the talent to start thinking about bigger goals. We have two goals for this year. One is to win a conference championship and the other is to beat Ohio State.”
The team returns the first Wolverine recruiting class in its history, which includes last year’s leading scorer, sophomore midfielder Kyle Jackson, and sophomore midfielder Mike Hernandez, who leads the team in assists. Both players were also on the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Rookie team last year.
The first recruiting class will also have a full year of experience and will look to improve into its sophomore campaigns.
“All the freshmen last year got a lot of playing time,” Jackson said. “Those game experiences should help us out a lot this year.”
But even with big goals for the season, Michigan began the season practicing the basics.
“We’re doing the fundamental drills in practice,” Jackson said. “We’re doing the passing, the catching, the shooting, the individual stick work. We’re just looking to get better every day.”
With that, the Daily breaks down the 2014 season, position by position.
The attack comes into its second year under offensive coordinator, Ryan Danehy, and looks to become more complex after players have had a year to get accustomed to the system.
Junior attacker Will Meter, who led all attackers last season with 10 goals, will miss the first month of the season due to a knee injury that occurred over winter break.
“Will has been a three-year starter for us and the ‘quarterback’ of our team,” Paul said. “We’ll miss him.”
In Meter’s absence, the Wolverines will look to freshman attacker Ian King to head the offensive attack.
King, who was ranked as the No. 45 recruit in the country by Inside Lacrosse and the No. 13 attacker in the class, was a 2013 US Lacrosse All-American.
“King has been really coming on in practice,” Paul said. “He’ll be a freshman, but I expect some good things from him.”
The Wolverines return the core of their midfielders this season. Jackson, Hernandez and redshirt senior midfielder Thomas Paras — the top-three scorers from a year ago — return to a midfield that Paul expects to be the strongest point of the team that scored 64 percent of Michigan’s goals a year ago.
Jackson will look to replicate his scoring total from last year. But he knows that if the team is successful, it won’t matter if he replicates his team leading total or not.
“I just want to help my team do as well as it possibly can,” Jackson said. “I want to do whatever I can to lead the team to NCAA championships.”
Freshman midfielder Mikie Schlosser from Davis, Calif., another heralded recruit, will also compete for playing time in a crowded midfield.
Considered a weakness the past two years, the defense has vastly improved and the backline will look to stifle opponents.
But a solid recruiting class and another year of experience should bolster a defense that allowed an average of 11.79 goals per game.
“Our defense is one of our strengths this year,” Jackson said. “We struggled last year with it, but we’ve taken some steps to improve the system.”
The coaching staff will give a hard look at freshman defender Andrew Hatton, another U.S. Lacrosse All-American, who will push for a substantial amount of playing time this season.
Sophomore goalie Gerald Logan, a 2013 ECAC All-Rookie, was expected to continue his dominance in the net. But the sophomore tore his labrum and needed surgery on the shoulder muscle. Because of the surgery, Logan will be out for the remainder of the 2014 season.
To fill the big hole left by Logan, the Wolverines will rely on freshman goalie Robby Zonino, the No. 68 recruit in the nation, to guard the Michigan net.
“We’re going to be putting a lot of trust into Zonino,” Paul said. “I think he’s ready for the challenge.”
Backing up Zonino will be sophomore Mike D’Alessio and senior goalkeeper Bobby Riso, a walk-on, who was recently brought up from the men’s club lacrosse team because the varsity team needed three goalkeepers to practice.
After two years of building a culture, Michigan will open the season looking to the freshman and sophomores of the program to lead them to success.