The No. 9 Michigan women’s lacrosse team returned to the field for the first time this Sunday since the cancellation of their 2020 season due to COVID-19. The Wolverines took on Ohio State in Columbus to start off their 2021 season.
In a back and forth battle that involved a Michigan comeback, it was too little, too late for the Wolverines (0-1), as they ultimately faltered and fell to the Buckeyes (1-0),15-12.
When the opening whistle blew, Ohio State hit the ground running, charging out to a 7-2 lead in the first 20 minutes of the first period.
“No one likes getting scored on,” senior defender Quinn Melidona said.
An early deficit of this magnitude could’ve hurt Michigan’s morale and future performance in the game, but, instead, it did the opposite:
“We are a very close-knit team and we treat all goals as team mistakes, so it only brought us closer together,” Melidona said.
After letting up five goals, the Wolverine defense was eventually able to settle down and find their rhythm.
“The defense adjusted great, always playing hard,” Michigan coach Hannah Neilsen said. “At first we were a little late on slides and committed more fouls than we would like to. We needed to be more fundamental in our defense and key in on their top players.”
The Michigan offense also started slower than expected, failing to penetrate the Ohio State defense.
“We needed more communication on offense,” graduate midfielder Molly Garrett said. “When we finally got settled, we were able to read the defense and communicate the open looks needed to score.”
The Wolverines soon found their stride on offense with sparks flying on the field as Michigan began to close the gap.
In the final 10 minutes of the first period, the Wolverine offense began to heat up with Garrett — who netted four goals on the day — and senior attacker Caitlin Muir — who notched two goals and two assists — leading the charge. With the help of fifth-year attacker Nadine Stewart and senior attacker Maggie Kane, Michigan went on to score six goals, three of them unanswered. Its run was capped off by a missile delivered by Garrett in the final seconds of the period to cut the deficit to two.
But the Wolverines couldn’t keep the momentum going. They trailed the Buckeyes for the rest of the game, though, both teams were firing on all cylinders, and the game turned into an intense back and forth in the second period.
Michigan was executing on both ends of the field, silencing Ohio State’s key scorers and exposing the weak points in the Buckeyes’ defense.
Five minutes into the second period, Muir cut hard around the crease, drawing a double team that left junior attacker Kaley Thompson wide open on the crease for a catch-and-shoot goal. With plays like these, Michigan showed great promise. However, it was not enough to overtake the Buckeyes.
“I think there were a lot of things we did well,” Neilsen said. “The team played hard for the full 60 minutes with a lot of emotion and excitement that I think may have hurt us at times, but the mistakes we made are all fixable issues.
“The main thing we need to improve on is playing more composed. There was a lot of excitement and inexperience around this game. It has been almost a year since our last game, we just need to get better at controlling those emotions.”
But, if the second period is any indication, the Wolverines have room to grow.
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