The No. 1 Michigan men’s lacrosse team struggled out of the gate in its first three games of the season. The team made it a focal point this week during practice to reverse that trend.
And Michigan did just that Friday. The Wolverines rode a seven-goal outburst in the first quarter en route to 22-10 drubbing over No. 13 Simon Fraser, in front of a home crowd of 1,215 fans.
“We were playing pretty well in the last few games in the early going but everything wasn’t clicking,” Michigan coach John Paul said. “Today it was at the start of the game, no question.”
Michigan dominated the Clansmen in every facet of the game. In fact, the Wolverines only allowed Simon Fraser to clear the ball out of their zone 16 times out of 33.
Michigan also had an amazing rate of success clearing the ball out of its zone, converting on 27 of 29 clears.
The play of senior midfield faceoff specialist David Reinhard was again spectacular as he won 22 of the 29 faceoffs he took. Reinhard also led the team with 15 groundballs. His success during faceoffs was extremely helpful in jump-starting the team.
“I think the transitions from defense to offense, (and) face-offs to offense were the key,” senior midfielder Jordan Kirshner said. “The quick hitter goals (were) where we didn’t have to sit in six-on-six, and we could just really push the pace and get on top of them, where they weren’t really comfortable.”
Kirshner had a big game for the Wolverines, scoring twice and also contributing with two assists.
But Michigan was not perfect during the game. Twice during the first half the Clansmen were able to make three-goal runs – once cutting the Wolverines’ lead down to four at the end of the first quarter.
“Once we got up that early, we kind of lost focus for a little bit because we felt like we had (placed) the game out of hand for them,” senior attackman Clark McIntyre said. “That’s the thing with any sport, you have to realize the game keeps going, you have to play the entire game to accomplish what you want to accomplish. We didn’t feel like we did that for the five or six minutes they went on a run there, so we re-focused and then got ourselves together.”
With the exception of the two early runs in the game from Simon Fraser, the Clansmen never appeared to get into a groove or take charge.
Simon Fraser’s goalie, senior Mike Ripley, appeared flustered at several moments during the game, and at one point toward the end of the first half, his anger boiled over.
A little under a minute after McIntyre had notched his second goal of the contest, Ripley lost his cool with 1:39 left in the half and he took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – slashing freshman attackman Thomas Paras’s stick out of his hand after a crease violation.
The penalty was symbolic of the Clansmen’s night and season. Simon Fraser was ranked No. 3 in the nation before the season started but has since lost three of its last four, sending its season spiraling out of control. But the Wolverines were clearly the superior team.
“We have so many weapons on offense that if you don’t honor everyone on the field, then we’re going to light you up one way or another,” McIntyre said.