With sophomore midfielder Kyle Jackson’s goal in overtime against Detroit Wednesday night, confidence levels reached an all-time high for the Michigan men’s lacrosse team after a 14-13 win.
But just three days later, a huge challenge looms large in Division I powerhouse No. 7 Johns Hopkins as the Wolverines (2-1) will travel to Baltimore to take on the Blue Jays at Homewood Field.
“Growing up watching lacrosse, pretty much all the ones you saw were on Homewood Field,” said junior attacker David McCormack on the athletic department’s website. “To be a part of that and play on that field and play a storied program like Hopkins is pretty awesome.”
After scoring a program-high 20 goals against Mercer and winning an overtime thriller against in-state rival Detroit, Michigan will have to change gears when it takes on a much tougher opponent in Johns Hopkins (2-0) Saturday afternoon.
“This is a program that, as our program grows for us, (Johns Hopkins) is a benchmark program,” said Michigan coach John Paul on WTKA Radio Tuesday morning. “We’ll know where we are when we’re competing with them year in, year out.”
Though in 2013, the nine-time NCAA champion Blue Jays fell vastly below expectations as the team went 9-5 and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 41 years.
This season, Johns Hopkins opened up its campaign by beating both Towson and Ohio State. The Blue Jays needed three overtimes to beat the Buckeyes, while they beat Towson, 15-8, in regulation.
Michigan will meet Johns Hopkins for the second time in its history after the Wolverines lost 17-8 at Homewood Field last year.
Johns Hopkins’ offense is led by the three-headed attack of Brandon Benn, Wells Stanwick and Ryan Brown, who have combined for 14 goals and 14 assists in the Blue Jays’ first two games.
Johns Hopkins will also count on faceoff man Drew Kennedy to get them possessions. Kennedy has a faceoff winning percentage of 74 percent and will provide tough competition for Michigan sophomore faceoff man Brad Lott, who played in just his first game against Detroit. Lott was 22 of 30 from the X.
For the Wolverines to have a chance at winning the game, Lott will have to outduel Kennedy in the faceoff circle.
“Brad had an amazing game last night, but Hopkins is a much different challenge on faceoffs.” Paul said. “I’m looking forward to see how Brad responds to it.”
The Blue Jay defense will be vastly different than the defense that was third in the nation in scoring defense last season. Gone is William C. Schmeisser Award winner — given to the nation’s top defensemen — Tucker Durkin and goaltender Pierce Bassett, who was third in the country in save percentage last season.
This season, the Blue Jays will rely on goaltender Eric Schneider to defend the cage. He appeared in eight games last season, including a game against Michigan, in which he had five saves.
Attackman Ian King, who hopes to capitalize on Schneider’s inexperience, leads the team with eight goals. Beside the freshman, the Wolverines have received a dearth of scoring from many other players as well. Overall, 12 Michigan players have found the back of the net in the three games played.
“This offense can score goals, if we get the ball we will score goals,” Paul said. “I’m not concerned about scoring goals as I am getting possessions.”
Paul also mentioned that attackmen Peter Kraus and Will Meter may see their first action of the season after being held out the first three games of the season due to injuries.
“There is a chance they will play on Saturday,” Paul said. “I don’t know how much, but there is a chance.”
One of the most important goals this season was Jackson’s goal to get the record-breaking win over Detroit. The goal was a huge step for the progression of the lacrosse program at Michigan.
But against NCAA royalty in Johns Hopkins, it will take not only goals, but also an all-around great, if not perfect game, to dethrone the Blue Jays.