PONTIAC, Mich. – The Michigan lacrosse team’s inaugural varsity match was less a fashionable entrance, and more a baptism by fire.
In their first Division-I game in school history, the Wolverines fell 13-9 to Detroit on Sunday afternoon in Pontiac.
Lacrosse is the most recent varsity sport to be added to the Michigan athletic lineup, and the first since the addition of men’s soccer and women’s water polo in the 2000-01 academic year.
Detroit also fields a young program, having only competed at the Division-I level since 2009. The two are also the only Division-I lacrosse teams in the state of Michigan.
Dead-even scoring in the first half exemplified the two teams’ similarity. Sophomore midfielder Douglas Bryant broke through the Titan defense early to score the first goal of the game and the first goal in Michigan varsity history. Minutes later, he would replicate the feat, giving Michigan (0-1) an early 2-0 lead.
Detroit (1-2) responded quickly, in what would become the theme for the back-and-forth first half. Neither team was able to establish a lead, and the score was tied on three separate occasions. While the Titans maintained a slight advantage in shots on goal and faceoffs won, an impressive five-save performance in the first half by sophomore Dylan Westerhold kept the score tied at 5-5.
“Dylan started the season as our third goalie,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “He came in today because of an injury to (freshman) Emil Weiss and played a really, really good first half.”
Detroit’s aggressive style of play began to wear down the Wolverines by the second half. After a few more back-and-forth exchanges, the Titans scored four straight goals beginning late in the third quarter. Costly turnovers by Michigan and quick counter attacks by Detroit drastically turned momentum against the Wolverines, who were outscored 8-4 in the second half.
“Mentally, I think we kind of fell apart towards the end of the game,” said fifth-year senior attackman Trevor Yealy. “I wouldn’t say that they were running all over us, but I think mentally they were a little more focused for the latter part of the game, and we’ve got to work on staying focused for the entirety of the game.”
This being its first Division-I year, Michigan cannot afford to make mental mistakes. At a much higher level of play, the Wolverines will not be able to outmatch their opponents with pure talent, so they must play intelligently to remain competitive.
Sunday’s first half against Detroit provided a glimpse of the direction the team will move. This season, the ultimate goal for the team is to make sure this vision becomes a reality.
“We’ve got to make sure that we keep going forward and we don’t take any steps back,” Yealy said.
With their introduction to varsity lacrosse now out of the way, the Wolverines will face off against Penn State in State College next Saturday.