Detroit 8, Mercer 10

I was confident that the Titans would come out strong against a perennial bottom-dweller, especially coming off a flat second half against Michigan. I was wrong (in part because Mercer may be a decent team this year), and it was a disappointment.

Tempo-Free

From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:

Mercer 2016
Detroit Mercer
Faceoff Wins 10 Faceoff Wins 11
Clearing 21-22 Clearing 20-23
Possessions 35 Possessions 35
Goals 8 Goals 10
Offensive Efficiency .229 Offensive Efficiency .286

UDM wasn’t quite as good on faceoffs (though it was effectively a draw, that’s still disappointing given the hope we got from the season opener against Ohio State’s Jake Withers) as Mercer, but made up for it with an OK ride. They weren’t bad defensively, but were very much so on offense, and that’s where they lost this game.

Notes

I’m probably going to go back-and-forth 13 times or so on how big a weapon FOGO Ben Gjokaj is, but I’m honestly OK with this performance. You aren’t going to be great every time out, and if you assume that Michigan’s Mike McDonnell is going to be pretty good this year, Mercer was his first mediocre performance. Gjokaj will be fine, but certainly won’t be winning games by himself.

The clears are pretty encouraging after a super-discouraging game against Michigan. Only one fail is totally fine. Of course, the flipside of that is 19 total turnovers, which means plenty of giveaways that don’t suddenly become easily excusable just because they happened outside a clearing posture. Sean Birney and Kyle Beauregard had five apiece, which accounts for .286 of total possessions, simply unacceptable regardless of circumstances – unless the circumstances include “playing the lacrosse version of the ’85 Bears.”

That Birney and Beauregard only made up for the mistakes with mediocre offensive production (a goal on four shots and a goal and an assist on five shots, respectively) certainly doesn’t help. Instead, it was a three-goal performance from sophomore attackman Matthew VanGalen and two goals and an assist from Alec Gilhooly – newly responsible with the rock, only committing one turnover, it must be noted – that made an impact on the scoreboard for UDM.

I feel like I take to the soapbox to defend Jason Weber a lot, but due absolutely deserves it. Mercer got of 39 shots (26 on goal) in 35 possessions, and only allowing 10 goals in that situation is pretty impressive. That’s true even against a bad offense, and with what isn’t looking like a super-awesome defense in front of him, it’s likely that some good looks were mixed in.

The one positive (at least from a fun factor perspective) from this defensive output was a huge uptick in caused turnovers. Eight different Titans accounted for at least one, led by Will Kane with two. A return to the fun-loving, swashbuckling Titans would be welcome around these parts, even if it leads to a few more scary moments late in games – though in a mid-major conference, I think it’s more likely to be a benefit than a drawback in most games.

The EMO difference was pretty close, with Mercer’s one additional opportunity (2/3 compared to the Titans’ 1/2) potentially a huge factor in the outcome, given that it meant a two-goal margin in the fourth when one possession could have changed the result in a one-goal game (rocket science!). The two converted opportunities came in the first quarter, and without those, a small Detroit lead could have been an insurmountable obstacle, instead.

Elsewhere

Detroit recapBoxscore. This game literally didn’t even have livestats, which should tell you what a clown shoes operation it was (and which should diminish your expectations for greater coverage).

Up Next

UDM finally broke through in a one-goal win over Jacksonville later today. Full recap coming… eventually. Maybe. (They also have Robert Morris this weekend).

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Detroit Preview: Jacksonville

I promise the backlog of game recaps is on the way… eventually.

Detroit dropped to 0-3 on the year with its first truly bad loss – to Mercer – Saturday. Can a traditionally better Southern Conference team (albeit one that looks pretty bad this year) get them off the schneid?

Jacksonville

Jacksonville University Dolphins Lacrosse

Fear Flipper!

Feb. 23, 2017, Noon EST
Ultimate Soccer Arenas
Live stats.
Detroit previewJacksonville preview.
@UDMLax. @JU_MLax.

Dolphins

Jacksonville has regularly been one of the better expansion/southern teams in recent years… but that appears to be aggressively not the case in 2017. They lost to Marquette by a staggering 17-1 margin last time out, a far cry from just a couple years back when they were regularly competing for a MAAC Tournament bid.

They’ve fallen off a cliff in the past couple years, going 4-8 and 3-10, and potentially headed for something just about that bad this year. Detroit may (unfortunately) be one of the teams at risk of providing one of those couple victories on the year.

Offense

Three players have separated themselves statistically at this early stage of 2017. Sophomore attack Will Hendrik (or is it Hendrick? The official website spells it both ways – not a great week for crappy SIDs who don’t want me to call out their bad job performance) leads the way with six goals and one assist, junior midfielder McLean Chicquen has a goal and four assists, and big junior attack Chase McIntyre (6-5, 210) has a similar split – albeit with sample size confusion – as his linemate with three goals and an assist.

Two more attackmen – junior Sean Ewert and freshman Brett Reilly – round out the multi-point scorers so far this year. Midfielders Eric Applegate and Ryan Beville both have plenty of playing time and have launched a few shots each, with none on goal. It’s too early to say who will step up around the established performers, but they’ll need some help.

It’s worth noting that Hendrik puts almost every shot attempt on goal, and McIntyre has put literally every one he’s taken on-cage so far this year, but the rest of the team is varying degrees of bad. They aren’t failing to score due to lack of opportunities, necessarily, but rather because they can’t aim their shots.

Defense

Chase York is the dangerman for the Jacksonville defense, with four caused turnovers through two games this year (the rest of the team has combined for just nine, with only freshman pole Tommy Barnhorst and Ewert, the above-listed attackman, boasting a pair). Sophomores Max Hartong and Andrew Mitchell have started both games to date along with York, who is primarily an LSM. It appears Beville (who I listed with the offense above just because there’s so little going on offensively for this team) bay me mostly a short-stick D-middie, given his ratio of ground balls – six, highest among non-FO, non-D – to shots (just three).

Ben Gleichenhaus is performing well in a really tough spot between the pipes, saving .528 of shots faced… which means he has a ton of saves, given that JU has ceded 30 goals in just two games. Gleichenhaus has let in 25 of those, while backup Adam Baker has let in five and has yet to record a save (is that good?).

This team can’t prevent opponents from getting lots of opportunities to test the keeper. Despite being relatively even in possession (their stat display is garbage, so opponent clears aren’t listed, and it’s not worth the effort of doing more research with just a bit of time to get this preview up), the opposition has fired off half-again as many shots, with a slightly better on-cage percentage.

Regardless of Detroit’s available personnel, they need to be able to not turn the ball over. If they don’t give it away (a lofty goal), they should have their opportunities, and there’s enough talent at UDM to put some of those in the back of the net.

Special Teams

One area in which Jacksonville is actually decent is the faceoff game: they’re effectively at .500 on the year (23/48, with one loss for each of two backup guys). With Ben Gjokaj fading since the impressive opening performance against Ohio State, this should be an opportunity to get back on the right side of things.

Jacksonville has 10 EMO opportunities through two games (a pretty sizeable number) but has scored on only three of them, hardly impressive.

Jacksonville struggled to clear in a big way against Lehigh, but cleaned that up against Marquette. Detroit has been pretty passive on the ride so far this year, but especially indoors, there’s an opportunity to create an advantage.

Big Picture

Winnable non-conference games are all important for UDM right now. Sure, they’re ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme – it’s MAAC Tournament or bust for the Titans – but getting on the right side of the ledger and building up a nice little resume will certainly help build confidence going into conference play.

Predictions

Even though Detroit looks poised to under-perform my expectations (especially the way those were regimented upwards after the OSU game), Jacksonville is quite bad.

  • Gjokaj has a nice day – something around .667 – on faceoffs, picking up a majority of the GBs himself. That helps him get his first point of the year on an assist from a clean faceoff win.
  • The offense finally finds a bit of a serious rhythm. Yes, this is more because Jacksonville’s defense is bad than because I have any growing confidence in the Titans’ ability to not throw the ball away.
  • Jason Weber has a good save percentage, but will be needed: Jacksonville is going to put more shots on cage than they have in either game so far this year (the high mark is 24 shots on goal against Lehigh).

Especially playing in the friendly confines of Ultimate Soccer Arenas – against a Southern team that doesn’t have to play indoors much – I like UDM in this one. It won’t be an easy game, necessarily, but as long as the offense isn’t actively undermining the team, it should be a 12-10 Titan win.

 

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The Next Level: Feb. 21, 2017

Our weekly look at Michigan natives who are playing college lacrosse at division-1 institutions this Spring. We’re at full capacity now, with every team’s season having started:

Bellarmine 5, Michigan 13

  • Senior attackman/midfielder Graham Macko (Brother Rice) – Scored a Goal on two Shots.
  • Freshman attackman Morgan Macko (Brother Rice) – Took two Shots.

Binghamton 11, Colgate 8

  • Junior midfielder Liam Reaume (Brother Rice) – Recorded two Assists and took two Shots.

Canisius 13, Dartmouth 8

  • Sophomore defenseman Logan Monroe (Holt) – Started, but only made the scoresheet by committing one penalty for 1:00.
  • Junior midfielder Keith Pravato (Novi) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior faceoff specialist Steve Wizniuk (De La Salle) – Did not see game action.

Cleveland State 9, Baldwin Wallace (D-3) 2

  • Freshman defenseman Levi Peterson (Holt) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman defenseman Garrett White (Ann Arbor Pioneer) – Did not see game action.

Cleveland State 15, John Carroll (D-3) 8

  • Freshman defenseman Levi Peterson (Holt) – Picked up one ground ball.
  • Freshman defenseman Garrett White (Ann Arbor Pioneer) – Did not see game action.

Colgate 8, Binghamton 11

  • Freshman attackman Cooper Belanger (Detroit Country Day) – did not see game action.

Detroit 10, Michigan 15

  • Senior attackman Kyle Beauregard (Notre Dame Prep) – Started, scored a Goal on seven Shots (three on goal), and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Junior midfielder Sean Birney (Detroit Catholic Central) – Started, scored two Goals on seven Shots (three on goal), and picked up three ground balls.
  • Freshman defenseman Nick Boynton (Troy Athens) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior midfielder Adam Findlay (Detroit Catholic Central) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior attackman Alec Gilhooly (Detroit Catholic Central) – Scored a Goal on five Shots (two on goal) and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Senior faceoff specialist Benjamin Gjokaj (Walled Lake Northern) – Won 5/18 faceoffs, picking up two ground balls.
  • Sophomore midfielder Emmett Green (Birmingham Seaholm) – Scored a Goal on his only Shot. Also committed one turnover and one penalty for 0:30.
  • Freshman attackman/midfielder Blake Grewal-Turner (Okemos) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Freshman defenseman Jack Harrop (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior midfielder Charlie Hayes (Utica Eisenhower) – Took two Shots (one on goal), caused two turnovers and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Senior midfielder JD Hess (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore defenseman Sam Horton (Okemos) – Started and caused two turnovers. Also committed one turnover and two penalties for 2:00.
  • Freshman midfielder Alex Jarzembowski (Detroit Catholic Central) – Won 1/3 faceoffs.
  • Junior midfielder Brent Lubin (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Junior midfielder Connor Maks (UD-Jesuit) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior midfielder Greg Marzec (Brother Rice) – Won 3/8 faceoffs, picking up two ground balls.
  • Junior defenseman Bryan Matney (Ann Arbor Pioneer) – Started, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Freshman midfielder Jackson McElhenney (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore midfielder Bo Pickens (Brother Rice)- Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore defenseman Austin Ross (Warren Mott) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman midfielder Charlie Schiefer (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman goalie Logan Shamblin (Troy) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman defenseman Travis Sparling (Novi) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior attackman/midfielder Adam Susalla (Birmingham Seaholm) – Recorded one Assist and took two Shots. Also committed one turnover.

Detroit 8, Mercer 10

  • Senior attackman Kyle Beauregard (Notre Dame Prep) – Started, scored a Goal on five Shots (three on goal), recorded an Assist, and picked up one ground ball. Also committed five(!!!) turnovers.
  • Junior midfielder Sean Birney (Detroit Catholic Central) – Started, scored a Goal on four Shots (two on goal), and picked up three ground balls. Also committed five(!!!) turnovers.
  • Freshman defenseman Nick Boynton (Troy Athens) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior midfielder Adam Findlay (Detroit Catholic Central) – Took one Shot.
  • Junior attackman Alec Gilhooly (Detroit Catholic Central) – Started, scored two Goals on six Shots (five on goal), recorded an Assist, and picked up one ground ball.
  • Senior faceoff specialist Benjamin Gjokaj (Walled Lake Northern) – Won 8/17 faceoffs, picking up one ground ball.
  • Sophomore midfielder Emmett Green (Birmingham Seaholm) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one turnover.
  • Freshman attackman/midfielder Blake Grewal-Turner (Okemos) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Freshman defenseman Jack Harrop (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior midfielder Charlie Hayes (Utica Eisenhower) – Caused one turnover and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Senior midfielder JD Hess (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore defenseman Sam Horton (Okemos) – Started and caused one turnover. Also committed one penalty for 1:00.
  • Freshman midfielder Alex Jarzembowski (Detroit Catholic Central) – Won his only faceoff, picking up one ground ball.
  • Junior midfielder Brent Lubin (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Junior midfielder Connor Maks (UD-Jesuit) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior midfielder Greg Marzec (Brother Rice) – Won 1/3 faceoffs, picking up one ground ball.
  • Junior defenseman Bryan Matney (Ann Arbor Pioneer) – Started, caused one turnover, and picked up one ground ball.
  • Freshman midfielder Jackson McElhenney (Birmingham Seaholm) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one penalty for 1:00.
  • Sophomore midfielder Bo Pickens (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore defenseman Austin Ross (Warren Mott) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman midfielder Charlie Schiefer (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman goalie Logan Shamblin (Troy) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman defenseman Travis Sparling (Novi) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior attackman/midfielder Adam Susalla (Birmingham Seaholm) – Caused one turnover and picked up one ground ball.

Drexel 14, Virginia 18

  • Freshman faceoff specialist Ian Foster (East Lansing/IMG Academy) – Won 6/15 faceoffs, picking up one ground ball.

Duke 9, Denver 14

  • Junior midfielder Matthew Giampetroni (Cranbrook) – Did not see game action.

Fairfield 13, Bucknell 12

  • Freshman defenseman Brian Cosgrove (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.

High Point 9, Georgetown 3

  • Freshman defenseman Luke Cappetto (Brother Rice) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one turnover.

High Point 5, Maryland 19

  • Freshman defenseman Luke Cappetto (Brother Rice) – Started (at LSM) and picked up one ground ball.

Manhattan 8, Robert Morris 18

  • Sophomore midfielder Robert Carroll (Grosse Pointe South) – Won 3/6 faceoffs, picking up two ground balls.

Marquette 17, Jacksonville 1

  • Sophomore midfielder Bob Pelton (Forest Hills Northern) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore midfielder John Wagner (Cranbrook) – Started, scored two Goals on four Shots, and picked up one ground ball.

Michigan 15, Detroit 10

  • Senior faceoff specialist Brian Archer (Brighton) – Won 2/3 faceoffs, picking up one ground ball. Also committed one penalty for 0:30.
  • Freshman midfielder Ryan Prior (Birmingham/Culver Academy) – Did not see game action.

Michigan 13, Bellarmine 5

  • Senior faceoff specialist Brian Archer (Brighton) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman midfielder Ryan Prior (Birmingham/Culver Academy) – Did not see game action.

Mount St. Mary’s 5, Towson 13

  • Freshman midfielder Keaton Mitchell (Clarkston) – Did not see game action.

Notre Dame 16, Georgetown 10

  • Sophomore defenseman Michael Langdon (Cranbrook) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior midfielder Sergio Perkovic (Brother Rice) – Started, scored two Goals on 10(!!!) Shots (five on goal), and picked up one ground ball.

Penn 10, Saint Joseph’s 5

  • Freshman midfielder Alex Minanov (Grosse Pointe Liggett) – Did not see game action.

Providence 7, Bryant 6

  • Junior midfielder Josh Keller (East Grand Rapids/Kent School) – Scored a Goal on two Shots and picked up one ground ball.

Richmond 10, UMBC 5

  • Senior attackman J.P. Forester (Brother Rice) – Started, scored a Goal on his only Shot, and recorded one assist. Also committed one turnover.

Robert Morris 18, Manhattan 8

  • Freshman long-stick midfielder James Scane (Brother Rice) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.

Stony Brook 12, Sacred Heart 11
Stony Brook 14, St. John’s 4

  • Sophomore midfielder Nathan Richards (Lapeer West) – Did not see game action.

Syracuse 10, Albany 9

  • Freshman midfielder Nick Martin (Detroit Country Day) – Did not see game action.

UMass Lowell 9, Harvard 14

  • Sophomore goalie Grant Lardieri (Forest Hills Northern) – Started and played 58:46. Made 17 saves and allowed 13 goals (.567). Caused two turnovers and picked up three ground balls. Also committed one turnover.

Yale 16, Villanova 11

  • Junior midfielder Jason Alessi (Brother Rice) – Scored two Goals on three Shots (two on goal), and picked up three ground balls.
  • Senior midfielder John Lazarsfeld (Ann Arbor Greenhills) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.

If I’ve messed anything up, let me know in the comments, where you can also feel free to share statlines from other divisions.

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Michigan preview: Bellarmine

Both state of Michigan teams are playing in Kentucky today. Anybody making the double-dip?

Bellarmine

Bellarmine Knights lacrosse

Fear the stylized Knights!

Feb. 18, 2017, 6 p.m. EST
Louisville, Ky.
Live stats. Video.
Michigan preview. Bellarmine preview.
@UMichLacrosse. @BUKnights.

The Knights

Bellarmine started the year with a loss at Robert Morris, not exactly the most inspiring beginning to the year. That’s not to say either team is terrible, but it’s certainly a lower level than Michigan is (finally) expected to be in Year six.

This is a pretty long rivalry-type substance. The Michigan club team (led by John Paul) scrimmaged the Knights regularly, and this was briefly a conference game during the brief period of time that both were members of the ECAC. U-M lost the first two varsity matchups in resounding fashion, then took an overtime victory and won in a blowout in 2015 (the teams did not square off in 2016).

Offense

With 2015 leading scorer Austin Shanks transferring to Ohio State before last season, the Bellarmine offense took a big step back. Tucker Ciessau, however, had a pretty nice season (23G, 13A), and will play both midfield and attack in 2017 – starting at attack against Bobby Mo. Fellow attack starter Ryan Coukoulis had basically no production as a part-time starter (he also missed multiple games due to injury, in his defense), but the diminutive 5-9, 160-pounder scored two goals in three shots against the Colonials. Freshman (and Brother Rice grad) Morgan Macko was the third starter up front.

The midfield starters for Bellarmine included their LSM and short-stick D-middie, so the actual offensive starter that’s most notable is big (6-5, 220) Jack Perkins, an outside bomber who was the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 goals and six assists last year, though he began 2017 with two assists and just three shots against RMU. Dylan Gatt – a similar finish-only type – has graduated, and junior Andrew Schoenick should be another starter on the offensive midfield.

Defense

The only defender who was a real problem for opponents last year was LSM Taylor Stuart, who was the only double-digit turnover causer on the squad. He’s graduated, along with close defenders Cole Killion and Shane Healey, and short-stick D-middie Reid Wesley. That’s a lot of personnel turnover.

Evan Kalish was a starter at both LSM and close D last year, though, he he will step in to be a key member of the defensive unit – don’t be surprised if the knights try to match him up on Mikie Schlosser as much as possible. The lone returning D starter (at least full-time) is Kevin Fahey, though he didn’t garner preseason all-conference honors (the only Knight who did was Ciessau).

Chase Rose was the primary starting goalie for Bellarmine last year, but he was relegated to the bench to begin the Robert Morris game, with freshman Jordan Dondoyano getting the starting nod instead. They both saved 60% of shots faced, though Dondoyano saw three times as many in almost exactly three times as much playing time: so far, they’re very similar, and the defense plays similarly in front of them.

Special teams

Bellarmine was a pretty good faceoff team last year with Connor Harryman working the X, but he is among those Knights who exhausted their eligibility last season (with all those seniors, the 6-9 record has to have been a pretty serious disappointment). Senior Tyler Nangle took every draw against RMU, and finished at .455. Last year, he was a .382 faceoff man, so this should be a serious advantage for the Maize and Blue if Mike McDonnell’s dominance against Detroit was anything other than a mirage.

Bellarmine cleared very well against Robert Morris, and held the Colonials to .833. The Knights have had spurts over the years of being a pretty hard-riding team, so they may be trying to transition back to that. However, with Mikie Schlosser serving as a prety effective one-man clear, and Michigan’s overall ability in transition, it shouldn’t bite the Maize and Blue.

Robert Morris had three man-up opportunities and failed to convert a single one… though this early in the year, it’s impossible to say if that’s a credit to the BU man-down defense or a strike against Bobby Mo.

Overall

This is a game that Michigan should win, and comfortably so. Like the game against Detroit, though, the history and rivalry factors make it to tough to know if they’ll simply take care of business against an overmatched opponent or fall victim to some of the emotional factors surrounding the game, especially since it’s on the road.

With a victory, there’s a decent chance that the Maize and Blue – currently receiving votes in the media polls – enters the rankings for the first time ever at 4-0. That would provide a pretty nice bit of hype going into the contest at a Notre Dame team that should be a minimum of No. 4 nationaly as long as they take care of Georgetown today. Stakes are new and fun, yeah?

Predictions

I’m feeling a pretty comfortable win here, which should come as no surprise.

  • Tommy Heidt hasn’t built buzz as an elite keeper because the final scores of each Michigan game look a little closer than the contests actually were. Although U-M is allowing eight goals/game, he’s only allowing 6.2 (Gunner Garn’s GAA of more than 42 is not so beautiful right now). Against a Bellarmine team that has only a few offensive weapons, he should be able to improve on his .667 save percentage this year, which is already outstanding.
  • Michigan will spread the ball around pretty well offensively. The attack of Ian King, Rocco Sutherland, and Brent Noseworthy is starting to get some outstanding chemistry going, and the midfield, while not prolific yet, has talent. Finding production from middies other than Mikie Schlosser – who had to take on defensive responsibilities with Chase Young unavailable against Detroit – will be a nice boost going into the Notre Dame game.
  • Mike McDonnell should have a full game that’s as good as his third and fourth quarters were against Detroit. Bellarmine will probably try to play a pole on faceoffs just to muck things up, because otherwise they will not have a very fun day trying to compete with their poor faceoff group against McDonnell and U-M’s good wing play.

This should be a blowout, with the caveats about team motivation (and, a new experience for Michigan, looking ahead) playing complicating roles. However, the talent disparity has grown too great for the Wolverines to not make an easy day of this one. 16-7 Michigan wins.

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Detroit preview: Mercer

Recap of the UDM-Michigan game coming after the weekend – too much going on this week to get around to it with the level of analysis it requires. 

Detroit is 0-2 on the year, but it’s a pretty solid 0-2 (competitive-ish losses to Ohio State and Michigan). Will they get their first win of the year at a neutral site game this afternoon?

Mercer

Mercer Bears Lacrosse

Fear the Bear!

Feb. 18, 2017, 3 p.m. EST
Lexington, Ky.
No live stats (what the hell?)
Detroit previewMercer preview.
@UDMLax. @MercerLacrosse.

The Bears

Mercer has improved over the course of the program’s existence, but seems to have settled in as a middling-to-bad mid-major team (probably a step below UDM). The caveat here, of course, is that Detroit has occupied a similar niche, if a step ahead – but did lose to the Bears last year. In the Bears’ first game of 2017, they fell in overtime to Vermont.

Mercer’s athletics website is one of the worst I’ve ever experienced (we’re talking worse than club programs’ websites – Sad!), but I managed to sneak my way into the stat archive somehow.

Offense

Last year’s leading scorer, Chris Baxa, has moved on, along with his 22 goals and just two assists – he was your finishing attackman. He missed two games, which allowed now-sophomore middie Lucas Wittenberg to draw even with him thanks to 12 goals and 12 assists. Junior Matt Quinn is another key midfielder, and more like Baxa, with a scoreline heavily tilted toward shooting, not feeding. Senior attack Chris Rahill had a scoreline that was tilted toward scoring (the Bears as a team assisted on barely more than a third of their goals last year – not a sharing-type squad), as well.

Defense

Senior Colin Massa is the leader of the defense. He led close D in takeaways (12) and was close in ground balls (16) last year.  Junior Dustin White should start, as well. Mercer has to replace Clay Rivers on the close D, given that he got the lion’s share of minutes, despite only one start in 2016.

Goalie Mike Nugent played essentially every meaningful minute last spring, and had a decent save percentage of .526 despite playing behind a pretty porous defense. Tyler Boardo got 5:26 of backup minutes, which is totally not enough time to read into his .333 save percentage. Transfer Bradley Hodoval played the Vermont game, but the redshirt sophomore saved only .438 of shots faced: we’ll see how good he is against the Titans.

Special Teams

Mercer won .714 of faceoffs against the Catamounts, but their athletics website is literally so bad that you can’t see who took the draws. This should be a test for Ben Gjokaj, who dominated a good specialist in OSU’s Jake Withers, and struggled against a previously-unestablished Mike McDonnell of Michigan. Time to see whether the performance against the Bucks was fool’s gold, or if that against the Maize and Blue was

The Bears cleared just OK against Vermont, but rode very well – against a poor-clearing team in Detroit (historically, at least, and the Michigan performance didn’t inspire much confidence), that could be a point of advantage for Mercer.

Big Picture

I’m not sold on Mercer as a decent team, much less a good one. Meanwhile, the Titans look worse than they actually are thanks to playing a couple pretty good teams to start the year. I’m still not expecting Mark Anstead to play – maybe for another couple weeks as he battles illness – which is obviously a blow, but could take UDM to the next level around the time conference play begins.

Racking up a couple non-conference victories would be nice, and Mercer is one of the few opportunities to do just that.

Predictions

I think this is going to be the opening of a winning account for the Titans this year.

  • I think Gjokaj isn’t going to be quite as good as the Withers performance made him seem, but is still going to be comfortably above .500 this year. This is one game in which I think he’ll run right near what his season-long average will be.
  • The offense seemed to figure things out late against Michigan, but there are some caveats: namely that the Maize and Blue replaced their entire defensive unit with backups, including the goalie. Still, the building of confidence that comes with seeing the ball go into the back of the net can still be meaningful. Look for the most efficient offensive performance of the season.
  • The Titans should have some trouble clearing, as long as Mercer’s success on the ride last weekend was more about the Bears’ quality rather than Vermont’s lack of it. Jason Weber – for all his quality as a shot-stopper – struggles with turnovers on the clear, as do some of the Titans’ poles and midfielders.

No live stats, at some unknown D-3 school in the middle of Kentucky, against a bad team… this feels like a step backward for UDM as a program that wants to be nationally competitive, regardless of the outcome. Fortunately, the outcome should be a positive one, saving a bit of face. Titans win, 13-10.

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Preview: Michigan v. Detroit 2017

The biggest game on the schedule (my personal schedule, at least) is here. What should we expect this evening in Ultimate Soccer Arenas?

Michigan Wolverines Detroit Titans Lacrosse Great Lax State

Michigan and Detroit played like 4 minutes of the 2012 game :(. Photo by Tim Sullivan/GLS

Detroit offense v. Michigan defense

The Titans moved in fits and starts against Ohio State, but it’s fair to say that even an improving Michigan team doesn’t have quite the established track record of success of the Buckeyes (despite OSU replacing much of its defensive corps this offseason).

The Titans’ offense is going to be relatively attack-driven, as it has been since I can remember, with some bombs from outside. A huge question in this game specifically is the availability of UDM junior attack Mark Anstead. He’s been the Titans’ leading scorer (or close to it – two points off Shayne Adams in 2015) for some time now, but didn’t play against the Bucks. The Wolverines don’t have that shutdown longpole yet – or at least one isn’t established yet – so if Anstead plays, he provides some tough matchups for the Maize and Blue. Sophomore Matt Vangalen came out of relative obscurity to light up the Buckeyes (two goals and all three UDM assists), and some of the usual suspects from the past couple years – Sean Birney, Alec Gilhooly, et al – are around, but a game-changer… uh… changes the game.

Detroit’s turnovers will also be an issue. Again, Michigan may not have quite the defensive personnel of Ohio State, but the Buckeyes managed to cause seven turnovers last weekend – and the Titans gave it away eight times on their own. A more aggressive Michigan team seems to be in the cards through two games of 2017, and given the longtime bugaboo of the Titans, that may be something that helps the Wolverines control the game defensively.

Michigan’s Tommy Heidt has had two solid games between the pipes, with a .694 save percentage early in the year. However, even the oft-inaccurate Titans will be the best-shooting team U-M has faced so far, by any reasonable expectation.

Michigan offense v. Detroit defense

As much as I think Tommy Heidt is a nice goalie, there’s no question that Jason Weber is the better keeper – perhaps best overall player – in this game. The matchup between him and a pretty good set of Michigan attackmen (and a couple key midfielders) could determine the outcome in this one. A hot performance from Weber can be an outstanding equalizer, even if the Wolverines look a bit stronger in other areas.

That the Titans’ defense still seemed to be figuring things out against Ohio State (.467 offensive efficiency for the Bucks, with Weber notching just a .440 save percentage) is a little troublesome. The balance across Michigan’s offensive unit, with Ian King able to feed one week and score the next, and augmented by the likes of Brent Noseworthy, Rocco Sutherland, and Pat Tracy at attack, plus the likes of Mikie Schlosser in the midfield, makes for an intimidating matchup for a team that isn’t settled in after losing a bunch of major contributors.

When Michigan has settled possessions, there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to work their way to a good look. Detroit isn’t pressing out to cause the takeaways, but the tradeoff of giving U-M time, rather than opening up the inside, is that the Maize and Blue have a chance to get the ball to their playmakers. Weber will have to make some very good stops.

Possession and transition

The faceoff battle should be intriguing. Detroit’s Ben Gjokaj dominated a very good faceoff specialist in Ohio State’s Jake Withers last weekend, including a very impressive 10 ground balls on 15 wins (and four of the five that he didn’t earn the ground ball were violations, so no GB was awarded to anybody – though a little sketchy scorekeeping probably inflates his number, it can only be so far off).

Meanwhile, Mike McDonnell has had a couple good but not awe-inspiring games at the dot. Will he be able to perform agains the player who appears to be the best he’s faced so far this year? There’s noise in faceoff stats, so it’s tough to say whether Withers is in for a down year, had a bad game, etc., but the same could be said for those against whom McDonnell has faced off.

Michigan’s ride and clear have both been outstanding. U-M has failed just one clear, and has held two opponents to .833 total, albeit one first-year team and a Lafayette squad that may be in for a second-straight rough year. Given that the Maize and Blue haven’t emphasized the ride in a couple years, don’t expect that they’re actively forcing these failed clears with pressure, so much as letting the opponent mess up on their own.

Meanwhile, UDM had a near-perfect clearing game against Ohio State, and held the Buckeyes to 15/19 on the clear. Like Michigan, the Titans have stepped back from a fun pressure style defensively in the past couple years, so it’s possible we just saw luck of the draw in the Woody Hayes Athletic center.

Special teams

Michigan played an extremely sloppy game in terms of penalties against Lafayette, and wasn’t particularly clean against an overmatched Cleveland State squad, either. All told, five of opponents’ 14 goals on the year have come with the Wolverines at a disadvantage. Given that the Titans have been a pretty good EMO team for several years running (even when they’ve struggled on the 6v6 offense), that could be an area in which they can capitalize.

On the other side, Detroit gave up four extra-man opportunities to Ohio State, which isn’t so bad, but they did allow the Buckeyes to convert three of them. Michigan is 2/2 on the EMO this year, so they aren’t drawing a ton of flags, but when they do, they convert.

This is a reversal from previous years, where the Titans were playing a bit sloppy while Michigan was scrappy-but-clean. Can the tables turn in this one, or will the rivalry implications make it heated on both sides? No way to tell until they strap it up.

Predictions

This has always been one of the more fun games for me to cover, and most frustrating when it’s canceled (as has happened due to weather twice since Michigan was elevated to varsity status). Both teams have only played indoors so far this year, so there’s no advantage there, and it should be a good old-fashioned rivalry contest.

  • Gjokaj wins the faceoff battle, but on draws where he doesn’t win the ground ball, the Wolverines will end up with more of the loose ones than do the Titans. The wing play will be key, and it’s up to Gjokaj to take care of business for himself, at times.
  • Ian King will have a balanced game, rather than the pendulum swinging hard one way or the other. He’ll both score and assist, and while he may not put a huge day on the scoreboard, he’ll be the key offensive player for the Wolverines regardless of whether the stats show it.
  • If Mark Anstead doesn’t play, I have a hard time seeing how the Titans have a big day offensively. They’ll still get their opportunities, but hitting double-digits without Anstead available seems to be out of the question.
  • Jason Weber will prove to be the best overall player in the game, but does he have the defense around him for that to matter much? Even if he lets in some goals, they won’t be looks that he should have saved – or that he had much of a chance at.

While the rivalry factor can be an equalizer (and, in all fairness, this is a game that means more to the Titans than it probably does to Michigan), I can’t get over the trajectory of the scores since the first game in this series: Detroit +4, Michigan +1 in OT, Michigan +9… that’s a trend toward the Maize and Blue, as their roster fills out with high-level talent. That can do little other than plateau at some point soon, but the talent gap seems to be growing. Although a couple individual performances can be enough to bring this one much closer, a 17-8 Michigan win seems likely.

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Michigan 17, Lafayette 6

Michigan Wolverines Lafayette Leopards lacrosse

The Wolverines celebrate in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse (via U-M Media Relations).

I managed to talk myself into being scared of this game… and I’m not yet sure why I was wrong. Are the Wolverines just improved? Was my expectation that Lafayette would be better with experience faulty because bad players are destined to remain bad? Stay tuned.

Tempo-Free

From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:

Lafayette 2016
Lafayette Michigan
Faceoff Wins 11 Faceoff Wins 15
Clearing 12-15 Clearing 21-22
Possessions 27 Possessions 40
Goals 6 Goals 17
Offensive Efficiency .222 Offensive Efficiency .425

Michigan dominated possession, thanks to a slight advantage on faceoffs and a very clean day clearing the ball (and of course, their ability to stop Lafayette from making their possessions end meaningfully). A big advantage there, and a big advantage in efficiency, and you have yourself a blowout win.

Notes

My trend of making one terrible prediction and one great prediction continued with this game Saturday, since I thought it would be a tight matchup (wrong! Sad!), but also expected Ian King to shed the feeder role to be more of a goal scorer (I have all the best predictions). King scored five goals to lead the team, though it took him nine shots and eight on goal to get there. He’s been one of U-M’s more volume-oriented shooters when he’s in scoring-not-dishing mode, so it’s sort of something you have to deal with, and the obvious payoff of “scores five goals” is well worth the hassle.

Augmenting King’s production were three-goal, one-assist scorers Rocco Sutherland and Pat Tracy. Tracy found twine every time he launched a shot, and could have made a bit of an argument for moving into the starting lineup… except of course that Brent Noseworthy had a nice day feeding, including on Tracy’s man-up goal, so the distribution of tasks seems to be pretty logical right now. Noseworthy was credited with an assist on one of his own goals, so obviously there’s a scorekeeping mistake in there, as well.

Mikie Schlosser (2G, 1A) and Hank Adams (1G, 2A) had nice offensive days as well, on an afternoon where the scoring seemed to come pretty easy for the Maize and Blue.

The Smith brother duo on close defense seemed to work out well, with Dickson forcing a game-high three turnovers, and little bro Eric a solid three ground balls (tied for the non-goalie, non-FO specialist team-high with Sutherland). Andrew Hatton played alongside them but was statistically quiet, while Stefan Bergman caused a pair of turnovers as well, after coming in off the bench. The defense was very good at preventing looks for the Leopards, who put only 18 of their 42 shots on the cage.

…a big part of that solid defense was another great performance between the pipes from Tommy Heidt, who has certainly solidified his grasp on the top slot of the goalie depth chart, at least for the time being. He made 11 saves and allowed five goals (Robbie Zonino entered to close out the game and had one save and one goal against), with three of those goals allowed coming on the man-up. Heidt also collected seven ground balls – often an indication of clean saves – and yet didn’t turn it over once on the clear. A very nice day, indeed.

While it’s worth keeping in mind that this Lafayette team is probably pretty bad, eight of the Leopards’ 11 turnovers were forced by the Maize and Blue. That’s a bit more active defensively than we’ve seen in recent years. We’ll see if the absence of Gerald Logan has led to a bit of a change in strategy, or if it’s simply a matter of the opposition faced.

Mike McDonnell had a nice day on faceoffs, winning 13/20. Michael Sullivan was a .519 faceoff specialist last year, so that’s a pretty nice mark. Freshman Matt Dellacrose went 2/4, while seniors Brian Archer and Will Biagi each lost their only attempt – they’re looking more like depth players at this early stage of the season.

This was a super-sloppy one with 17 combined penalties, 12 of them committed by the Maize and Blue. Lafayette converted on four of eight man-up opportunities, while U-M turned both their EMO chances into scores.

Elsewhere

Michigan recap (highlights inside but annoyingly not linkable, also a person who works for Michigan Athletics doesn’t know how to pronounce “Oosterbaan”). Lafayette recap. Boxscore. Photo gallery.

Up Next

It’s the big one. Michigan heads to Pontiac for the Titans’ indoor venue at Ultimate Soccer Arenas Wednesday for the in-state matchup. If this gets canceled because of snow I’m going to throw a fit, FYI.

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