The Michigan lacrosse team will have a great opportunity when it crosses sticks with its biggest rival Saturday, playing in front of what may be its biggest home crowd of the season at Michigan Stadium.

The game that’s been dubbed the “Battle at the Big House” will pit the Wolverines against Ohio State after the football team’s annual Spring Game. It’s an opportunity for Michigan to play its first televised game on the Big Ten Network and also to take on the team it has most anxiously waited to play against all season long.

The Wolverines (1-10) will face a tough Buckeye team (5-6) that is ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 7.64 goals a game, and 16th in forced turnovers, with 8.27 turnovers a game. Michigan will need to capitalize on as many chances as it can on Saturday in order to overcome such an unforgiving defense.

“They are a very talented team,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “They are a very disciplined team and are very aggressive defensively.”

Earning shots on Buckeye goalie Greg Dutton, who is ranked eighth in the nation in goals allowed per game (7.29), will be a priority for the Wolverines. Michigan had limited shot opportunities in its game last week, when it lost the ground-ball battle by 17 to Delaware.

“We have to do better on ground balls than we did last week,” Paul said. “We just didn’t get enough possessions because of ground balls.”

The Wolverines also have to find a way to limit Ohio State’s offensive opportunities on Saturday in order to walk out of Michigan Stadium with a win. The Buckeyes’ leading attacker, Logan Schuss, is ranked 14th nationally in points per game, but Michigan is adamant that it won’t allow a single player to determine its defensive strategy.

“A lot of their offense ends up with Schuss making plays,” Paul said. “But we have had the same philosophy all year, which is not to focus so much on one player and really to focus on slowing down what they like to do. Our defense is going to be predicated on trying to get them out of their comfort zone.”

Staying focused on the game has been a top priority of the coaching staff this past week in practice. It knows that the rivalry is an aspect of the game the players should be excited about, but playing in their first televised game with more fans than usual could potentially distract the younger Wolverines.

“Obviously, (Saturday) is going to be a pretty exciting day,” Paul said. “This is going to be a great rivalry. We just can’t get caught up in the moment.”

Even though this is the first year the lacrosse program has played at the Division I level, Michigan understands the tradition behind the rivalry.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.