On Saturday, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team traveled to Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla,. to take on Army in the Orange Bowl Classic. In a game that offered the Wolverine squad an opportunity to display their talent on a national stage, Michigan faltered, losing 12-1.
Michigan (0-1 ECAC, 0-3 overall) played its fourth game of a seven game road stretch. Searching for its first victory, a tough Army (3-2) team stood in the way.
“We expected what we got,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “They play very tough, psychical defense. We haven’t been challenged physically like that yet this year and I wasn’t sure how we would handle that with such a young team. And in that part of the game, we didn’t handle it well.”
Trying to bounce back from a tough loss to Johns Hopkins, the Wolverines knew they had to control the face-offs, groundballs, and capitalize on all power play opportunities.
“In this stage of the development the program we learn from everything we do,” Paul said. “We did some things very well against Hopkins, but we also knew we had some things to improve on.
“We needed to face off better and we won that battle today and we needed to get better at ground balls and we were even on that— a major accomplishment.”
Still, from the start, a well-disciplined Army team never allowed Michigan to be in the game. The Black Knights controlled things from the outset, out-shooting the Wolverines 13 to five and scoring three goals in the first period. Down 3-0, Michigan knew the deficit could be made up, just as Johns Hopkins did during its first quarter seven-goal scoring run last week.
Had it not been for the remarkable goaltending of freshman goalie Gerald Logan, the Wolverines would have found themselves in a much deeper hole. Logan tallied six saves in the first quarter.
“To start the game, I think our defense played really well,” Logan said. “The defense gave me good looks in the first quarter, and they allowed me to see the shots I wanted to see, which is very nice.
“The defense helped me hold down the fort.”
Michigan needed every opportunity they could get, and a big one came near the end of the first quarter, when the Wolverines gained a one-up advantage. But Michigan couldn’t find the back of the net, and ended the quarter with the same 3-0 deficit.
But then things started to look bright. With 10:27 left in the second quarter, freshman attacker Peter Kraus netted the Wolverines’ first goal of the game.
But Michigan couldn’t keep the momentum, as a pair of slashing penalties helped put the Wolverines into a 6-1 hole.
“We were playing more aggressive because they could shoot from the outside,” Logan said. “Frustration and exhaustion started to kick in and we played a ton of defense (in the second quarter).”
Freshman face off specialist Brad Lott added: “Not committing penalties is extremely important, especially when we are trying to get the ball back on offense. [Penalties] put Gerald in a tough spot.”
A second half energy boost never came, and Michigan was shut out in the second stanza. Army attackers Garrett Thul and Alex Newsome tallied four combined goals.
A big reason for Michigan’s offensive struggles is its lack of shot creation and scoring on man-up opportunities. The Black Nights outshout the Wolverines 52-18 and scored on three power plays, while Michigan couldn’t capitalize on any man-up opportunities.
But there some positives in the loss, mainly the play of Logan. His 24 saves set a new program record.
“Gerald is special — very special,” Paul said. “All these games would be uglier without Gerry back there. As we build a program, we are comfortable we have somebody back there who can get the job done for the next few years as we build.”
And Mott, Michigan’s face-off specialist, finally gained an advantage by winning nine out of the 17 face-offs.
“Winning possession is a key point to the game,” Lott said. “It is my job to get us the ball. By working on timing and perfecting my moves I will keep improving.”
The Wolverines will look to earn their first victory of the season on Wednesday when they take on High Point.
“We need to be more focused on the little things, whether it be groundballs or face offs,” Logan said. “We need to play Michigan lacrosse. We need to do what we do best. We need to get the right mental attitude and keep our heads up. There are good things to take away from every game”