The Michigan lacrosse team (1-11) played its first game against rival Ohio State (6-6) Saturday, competing on the biggest stage it has seen this season. The inexperienced Wolverines put on a valiant show in Michigan Stadium but fell to the Buckeyes, 12-9, in front of a crowd of over 4,000.

The game was the hard hitting, tough affair that is expected from a Michigan-Ohio State matchup, and the two teams struggled back and forth throughout the contest. Yet Michigan fell behind early in the first quarter and couldn’t seem to pull together an effective run to close the gap.

Despite the loss, the significance of the program’s first game against the Buckeyes was not lost on team leaders such as senior captain midfielder Alex Vasileff, who won’t receive a second chance against Ohio State.

“This is an opportunity I am really thankful to have,” Vasileff said. “I thought (the team) left it all out there. I am really proud of them … but unfortunately, we came up short.”

The Wolverines had their work cut out for them Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes rank seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 7.64 goals per game, and 16th in forced turnovers with 8.27 per game.

Michigan found itself down by two goals early, with only Vasileff finding the net in the first quarter for the first of his three goals. The second quarter saw the Wolverines matching the Buckeyes with four goals each, and they felt confident coming out of the tunnel in the second half.

“We felt like we had a pretty good set ready to go,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “We came into the (second half) pretty confident about some of the things we were doing. But we knew they were going to come out with a lot of intensity, and we would have to answer that level of intensity.”

The Buckeyes tallied three consecutive goals in the third quarter, leaving the Wolverines to fight their way back from a five-goal deficit. The only spark of life came from senior faceoff man Brian Greiner’s goal, and the quarter ended with a 10-6 score in Ohio State’s favor.

Michigan outscored Ohio State 3-2 in the fourth quarter with goals from Vasileff, fifth-year senior Trevor Yealy and junior midfielder Willie Steenland. Yet that final push wasn’t enough for the Wolverines to overcome a Buckeye offense that had control the entire game.

Ohio State attackman Logan Schuss, who netted a hat trick, is ranked seventh in the nation with 2.82 points per game. He led the Buckeyes in an attack that capitalized on transitional opportunities against the Wolverines.

“I thought (that) overall we did a really good job defending transition today,” Paul said. “But they had a lot of transition opportunities.”

Along with Ohio State’s emphasis on transitional scoring, Michigan faced a disciplined offense that used passing to make the Wolverine defenders move. Ohio State took advantage of Wolverine players that were caught watching the ball, leaving Buckeye players open to take uncontested shots.

Even with those defensive weaknesses, Paul was proud of the play of freshman goalie Emil Weiss. The 12 saves that Weiss made against an experienced opponent and his improvement in other areas of the game is what Paul is looking for in all of his players in major games.

“I thought he played great,” Paul said. “He has just gotten more comfortable as a freshman playing Division I goalie. He also cleared the ball really well today … he is a guy who made big improvements.”

Despite the loss, the Wolverines will be taking more out of Saturday’s game than just another check in the loss column. Coaches and players see this game as a stepping-stone that will help build the program to a point where success against Ohio State isn’t hoped for, but expected.

“We take a lot out of the way we played today,” Paul said. “We’ve made tremendous strides in every area over the course of this season. Our mission all year as ‘Team One’ is to lay the foundation for what this program is going to be.”

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