When the No. 1 Michigan men’s club lacrosse team takes on No. 7 Oregon Saturday night in Dallas, the Wolverines will be playing for more than just themselves.
Michigan’s game against the Ducks is the headline event of the Patriot Cup, a week-long tournament. The competition raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a program started in 2002 to assist severely injured military members returning home from war.
For some Michigan players the event will hold special meaning. Senior midfielder Michael Bartomioli knows a number of people from his hometown of Pleasantville, N.Y., who are currently serving in the Marines in Iraq.
“I knew about the Wounded Warrior Project before the Patriot Cup came about,” Bartomioli said. “I’ve already donated to it and I’ve already been in support of it. Anyone who knows anyone who is fighting over there is going to be motivated by it and I think if anything it will positively motivate them.”
Saturday’s game will be a battle of undefeated teams and it will be important for the Wolverines to concentrate on beating Oregon.
“Obviously (the Patriot Cup) is a great cause and a great event and we are proud to be a part of it,” Michigan coach John Paul said. “But, we’re focused on the game. We’re going down there to win a game against Oregon.”
The Ducks have outscored their opponents this year by a massive margin, scoring 90 goals while letting up just 29.
But Michigan’s numbers are also impressive – in five games, four against ranked opponents, the Wolverines have allowed just 36 goals while posting 80.
One major reason for that has been the consistent play of junior attackman Trevor Yealy, last year’s MCLA Player of the Year. The Pittsburgh native has found the back of the net 21 times, accounting for more than — 25 percent of Michigan’s scoring total.
“Yealy is obviously an incredible talent,” Paul said about Yealy. “He’s not just talented though, he’s working very hard, and he’s focused on getter better. Obviously he’s not a secret (anymore), so teams are strategizing every time we play to stop him. That opens things up for other guys, but he is still getting his points. That’s what’s impressive — even when teams are trying to shut him down he’s still finding a way to get his hands free and get good scoring opportunities. He’s a special player.”
But shutting down Yealy is not the only thing Oregon will have to worry about.
Saturday night’s game against the Wolverines marks the first ranked opponent the Ducks will face all season. Oregon has also struggled historically against Michigan, losing all three previous contests against the Wolverines, including an overtime loss in 2005 by a score of 8-7.
Michigan has also proved itself to be a road warrior team, winning four road games against ranked opponents thus far. But the team is still excited about showcasing their talent against top competition.
“I think (the team is) excited about this one,” Paul said. “Those first three were all part of a long trip and so at the end of that trip we were getting a little bit road weary. But, this is a very different kind of trip. It’s very much like a business trip. We’re going down on Friday, playing on Saturday, and coming home Sunday. I think more than anything they are excited about playing a great game in a great setting.”