Up against its second varsity program – Division III Wittenberg University – the Michigan men’s club varsity lacrosse team fought through multiple injuries to pull out a gritty 10-5 win on Saturday night.
With numerous top attack men sidelined, including last season’s team MVP Kevin Zorovich, the Wolverines relied on two attack players – junior Trevor Yealy (last season’s MCLA player of the year) and senior Josh Ein. The two dominated the Tigers’ defense, netting eight of Michigan’s ten goals.
“We’re still missing three of our top attack men,” Michigan head coach John Paul said, “when they’re in (the offense is) a lot more balanced. Our attack is going to score the majority of our points this year, there is no question about that. But I’m not worried – our first two midfield lines are going to score as well, so will our defensive (midfielders) tonight just happened to go through those two guys because they were our top two attack who were able to play tonight.”
While Michigan did win by a comfortable five goal margin, the score differential in the game could have been much larger.
The Wolverines did not play their best lacrosse and looked a little sloppy handling the ball. A goal of the team’s since last season has been to limit turnovers to fewer than 20 a game. Michigan failed to meet that mark Saturday night.
“We’ve been kind of sloppy (with) ball handling – throwing balls away, not doing well on ground balls,” Yealy said. “If we can clean up little tiny mistakes like throwing the ball away, that could be a lot more goals. (Today) could (have been) a completely different game if we (didn’t) throw the ball away.”
Michigan jumped out to an early lead in the game and looked dominant throughout the first quarter, going up 4-0 before surrending a goal to Wittenberg with a minute left in the stanza.
The Wolverines came out strong in the second quarter, scoring two goals in the first five minutes before Wittenberg went on a run to shrink Michigan’s lead to 6-3 with less than six minutes left in the half. The Wolverines quickly responded with a goal to head into halftime with a 7-3 lead.
The third quarter was all Michigan, as the defense took over and only allowed one quality Wittenberg shot. Following a goal each from Ein and Yealy, the Wolverines headed into the fourth frame with a 9-3 lead. The defense managed to completely shut down the Wittenberg offense, killing off a 30-second offsides penalty in the process.
Junior defenseman Harry Freid, one of three returning All-Americans on the team, thought Saturday’s game was a glimpse of the defense’s potential. Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“Just communicating – defensively that will come with the more we play,” Freid said. “We have a lot of talent on defense and on offense and our goalies are playing great. The sky is the limit for this team. I think we’re looking at defensive numbers like two years ago and offensive numbers like last year.”
Two years ago, the Wolverine defense allowed the fewest number of goals in program history. Michigan has a few kinks to knock out of their system, but the team is not concerned with reaching their peak levels just yet.
“The most important thing is to be the best team that we are on May 15 (when the national championship is played),” senior captain Svet Tintchev said. “That’s our goal. We don’t have to best right now. We just have to be the best on May 15.”