It was a tale of two teams in the Michigan men’s lacrosse team’s loss to Harvard on Saturday in Cambridge, Mass. The Wolverines (1-9) had a balanced attack, but the Crimson (5-4) rode attackman Jeff Cohen’s seven goals to an 11-7 victory.
Michigan’s loss was due in large part to its inability to respond to the 5-1 deficit it found itself in at the end of the first quarter and its failure to stop Cohen. Cohen matched the total offensive production of the Wolverines with seven goals, leading a scoring run in the first quarter and producing his own three-goal run in the third.
The seven-goal performance by Cohen was something that the Wolverines had yet to see before this season, but they know they will have to learn how to stop other players with his talent in the future.
“We are going to come up against plenty of opponents of (Cohen’s) caliber,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “The difference between a great player like (Cohen), and the other players on any team is that when he does get opportunities, he is probably going to finish.”
The Wolverines, on the other hand, didn’t rely on one main scorer, instead spreading out their scoring among freshman attackman David McCormack, senior attackman Trevor Yealy and junior attackman Thomas Paras, who each had two goals. Sophomore midfielder Doug Bryant tallied another goal and freshman attackman Will Meter contributed three assists for the Wolverines as well.
Saturday started off well for Michigan when McCormack scored the first goal of the game. Yet the drought that followed, in which the Crimson netted the next five goals, revealed the Wolverines struggles with answering their opponents’ scoring.
After falling behind in the first quarter, Michigan held Harvard to just two goals in the second. The Wolverines came out strong after halftime, scoring two goals from Bryant and Paras. But Cohen tallied three consecutive goals as the lead ballooned to 10-4 late in the third quarter.
Michigan kept fighting, with McCormack, Paras and Yealy each finding the net in the third and fourth quarters, but the team was unable to close the gap any further.
The Wolverines ended up winning the faceoff battle, 12-10, and had only four more turnovers than the Crimson. But Cohen’s scoring performance, and the inability to play good defense consistently, spelled the downfall for Michigan.
Despite Cohen’s high-scoring performance, Paul is adamant that the Wolverines will not allow their style of play to be dictated by a single opposing player.
“We aren’t playing a style right now to take away one player,” Paul said. “We are playing a defensive style that is trying to limit total opportunity for the other team. We are choosing to play a team-style defense right now. They only had four other goals so I feel like … that was one of our better defensive performances of the year.”
Even though Cohen matched the number of goals Michigan scored, the team doesn’t believe it was beaten by one player’s performance. Instead, it blames its own play in the first quarter for its inability to close the gap late in the game.
“It’s very tough to come back from being down early,” McCormack said. “We haven’t had that opportunity much this season because we usually start out pretty fast. In the games, when we have been beaten pretty bad in the first quarter, we haven’t been able to come back.”
A bright spot for the Wolverines was the return of freshman goalie Emil Weiss, who missed the previous game against Mount St. Mary’s with an injured hand. With 13 saves, Weiss was only two short of his season high.
“He is a big part of our team,” Paul said. “Just like any sport where the team relies upon the goalie being the last line of defense, he is an important piece of our overall team’s success.”
The Wolverines hope to get past some of their inexperience and disappointment from this game before they cross sticks against their next opponent, Delaware, who is known for its unconventional style of play.
“They are a very dangerous team,” Paul said. “They play with a little bit more loose, kind of unstructured style. Because of that they may give us some opportunities, and they will have some opportunities that we are going to be challenged to stop.”