Brigham Young University may not seem like a common rival for most Michigan teams, but for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team, last season’s bitter end still lingers. The Cougars stood in the way of a trip to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association semifinals last May.
There will be a chance for redemption this year in Ann Arbor.
“This will be the first game played at Oosterbaan against them,” tri-captain Matt Hudson said. “Having them on our home turf is an advantage for us.”
After being bounced by BYU from the national tournament to end their 2006 campaign, the Wolverines entered this year’s season as the No. 5 team in the MCLA preseason rankings.
Michigan looks to garner attention by playing one of its toughest schedules in recent memory.
After sweeping Florida and Florida State over spring break, the Wolverines stand at 4-0 to start the year. However, the meaty portion of the calendar sets in soon. Road matches against three ranked opponents – No. 20 Oakland, No. 10 Lindenwood and No. 1 Colorado State – will be important tests for the squad.
“We are playing tougher games down the stretch in order to be prepared for the postseason,” Michigan coach John Paul said through the athletic department.
The final regular season game of the year will be against rival Michigan State. Once an inexperienced program, the Spartans defeated Michigan 12-11 last year, giving the Wolverines just their second conference loss in program history.
Although Michigan won its other meeting with Michigan State by a margin of 14-8, the team knows the Spartans are not to be taken lightly.
“We always play them last, and with the way they played (in 2006), this has finally become the rivalry game it always should have been,” Paul said.
Michigan is led by a trio of senior captains looking to leave a final mark on the program.
Midfielder Hudson, defenseman Brad Ferriell and starting goaltender Ryan Kaufman understand the responsibility that lies in their hands as veterans.
“Our seniors made a point this year of involving some of the younger players in leadership roles,” Paul said. “I think they’ve learned from watching last year’s seniors that they can’t do it all themselves.”
With the graduation of last year’s leading scorer, midfielder Jim Constantine, there is a void that needs to be filled.
Juniors Peter Krauss and Evan Fox will take on key roles on attack. They have combined for 13 goals and three assists through the first four games.
Offensive-minded midfielders will also look to take advantage of added playing time. Juniors Bobby Morales and Mark Hammitt, along with Hudson, will complement the attack nicely.
On defense, the long sticks will be led by Ferriell, a physical presence known for his tenacity throughout his tenure at Michigan. Sophomore Zach Elyacher will play alongside Ferriell, with a battle for the important third defensive position, still undetermined as of yet.
Finally, Kaufman will anchor the team at the goaltender position. After a solid 2006 season, the vocal backstop will be counted on to continue his accomplished stint in net. However, junior Graham Townsend will see significant minutes as Kaufman’s understudy.
“We’ve got two goaltenders who we think of as starters,’ ” Paul said. “We know if one is struggling, we can go with the other.”