After starting off the season shattering program records for scoring, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team’s offense came to an abrupt halt last weekend against No. 8 Johns Hopkins losing, 14-5.
This weekend, the schedule gets no easier for the Wolverines (2-2) when they take on No. 15 Cornell on Saturday afternoon at the Oosterbaan Fieldhouse.
The Big Red (2-0) enter Saturday following a good start to the season by defeating Hobart and Binghamton. Cornell took on Binghamton on Tuesday night and used a five-goal run in the second quarter to come out victorious, 14-8.
Cornell is coming off a very successful 2013 spring campaign in which it went undefeated in the Ivy League and made an appearance in the NCAA Final Four.
But gone from the team is attacker Rob Pannell, who was the 2013 Ivy League Player of the Year and the Big Red’s program leader in career points and assists. Pannell led Cornell to become the second-ranked scoring offense in the country last season. Defender Jason Noble, a 2013 1st Team All-American, also graduated.
Leading the offense this season for the Big Red are attackers Dan Lintner and Matt Donovan. The pair leads the Cornell offense with ten and six goals, respectively. The duo was responsible for nine goals in the Big Red’s win over Binghamton.
Neither the Wolverines’ offense nor the defense had a particularly good game in the loss to Johns Hopkins and both units will want to bounce back against the Big Red.
The Michigan offense is headed by freshman attacker Ian King, who leads the team with eight goals, but against the Blue Jays, he could not find twine and the top four scorers for the Wolverines could only muster two goals collectively.
“There are two things that really stood out against Hopkins that we need to fix,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “We weren’t doing a good job in our initial dodges. We couldn’t get to the spots we needed to get to get good shots off. We also were impatient and took some poor shots.”
On the other side of the field, the defense also had a lackluster game last week. After a stellar two games against Mercer and Detroit, the defense took a step back against Johns Hopkins, allowing nine goals in the first half. The Wolverines improved in the second half to allow just five, highlighting their problems with inconsistency.
“The defense is just very young,” Paul said. “At the very most we have guys playing in their third season. They just have to learn from practice and in every game. We highlight in film all the little mistakes we’re making and if we can correct a couple of those mistakes every week, we’re going to end the season with a pretty good defense.”
Added senior defensive midfielder Jeff Chu: “The big thing we need to do is make adjustments throughout the game. Once we settle into the game plan, we need to figure out what (Cornell) is doing and make changes in the huddle.”
As bad as the Wolverines were beaten, sophomore faceoff man Brad Lott was one of the few bright spots in the game. Lott went 68 percent from the X on his way to winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference Specialist of the Week. This week he will face off against Cornell faceoff man Brad Tesoriero, who has a stellar 72 percent success rate on the faceoff X this season.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams in history, but will be Michigan’s third match against a ranked opponent this season after playing No. 10 Penn State and the Blue Jays earlier in the season.
“(Playing ranked teams) shows us the improvement, but also highlighted the things we need to do better to compete with top teams,” Paul said. “Most new programs don’t do this, we’ve done it because we want a benchmark.”
The Wolverines have preached all season about not just building a program, but becoming a team that can compete with the best in the nation. While one win over a ranked opponent like Cornell won’t prove to the nation that they are a powerhouse just yet, but it will go a long way in proving to themselves that they can succeed.