So I entered this game thinking Mount St. Mary’s was kinda bad and Michigan is rather bad. Clearly, I underestimated The Mount, at least a bit. Michigan, for the most part, showed that they can’t compete unless they’re playing well, and that was very much not the case Saturday.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Mount St. Mary’s 2012|
|Mount St. Mary’s||Michigan|
|Faceoff Wins||16||Faceoff Wins||7|
|Offensive Efficiency||.469||Offensive Efficiency||.261|
This was a slooooooooow game. I’d have to check with the College Crosse guys, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of the slowest Division-1 games of the year (certainly among those with 20+ goals).
Dominance on faceoffs was big in this game. It allowed Mount St. Mary’s to suck the life out of the game (not that Michigan wouldn’t have done the same thing in the same situation), play “make it, take it,” and prevent Michigan from drawing close.
Clearing was a problem for Michigan on this day as well, though it waas more due to miscommunications (at least two failure to advance calls) rather than sloppy play, unlike in some other games.
Mount St. Mary’s put up one of the best offensive efficiency numbers I’ve seen this year (without going through every boxscore, the UDM v. Mercer game is the only one that comes to mind as probably being close), and that was due to a combination of factors, but mostly just bad defense by Michigan.
As has been the case much of the year, Michigan built up an early lead before getting shelled the rest of the game. I didn’t get a chance to speak with John Paul afterwards, but I’d be interested to hear his opinion on why Michigan is able to start games so well against teams that are clearly more talented.
Starting on faceoffs… As mentioned above, if Michigan would have had a better performance on faceoffs, they could have stayed in this game a little longer. The momentum that was sapped out of the game by slow pace of play and the consistent possession by Mount St. Mary’s stopped any comeback bid dead in its tracks.
The defense… it was bad. In the first half, Emil Weiss was shaky. That’s to be expected coming off a re-broken thumb, I think. In the second half, he played very well, but the Michigan 6-v-6 defense was just lost. Easy looks from outside and inside, nothing was going right. Andrew Hayden suffered what I believe to be a broken ankle in the second half, which definitely isn’t going to help an already-poor amount of depth in the defensive midfield. J.D. Johnson led the defense with three caused turnovers and six ground balls.
Offensively, there were very few opportunities. Michigan’ actually wasn’t that much less efficient on offense than they have been this year, but the pace of play (and awful defense) made things look worse. Doug Bryant’s two goals and an assist made for the only multi-point performance. Willie Steenland took five shots, Trevor Yealy and Alex Vasileff four apiece, but each had only one goal to show for it. Thomas Paras and Will Meter added assists on the day.
Emil Weiss cleared past midfield on one occasion, and naturally had to try for the goalie goal. A check landed on his hands, leading the shot to go horribly astray, but I wholeheartedly approve of any and all attempts to score by netminders.
I complained on Twitter during the game about a lack of urgency by Michigan’s team. Although I may have been a little too harsh in the heat of the moment, it did seem like there wasn’t a strong desire to speed up the game – either on defense, offense, or from end-to-end – and that’s weird when you’re down by a handful of goals. Of course, part of Michigan’s style (necessitated by serious talent deficiencies) is going to be to slow the game down, but open looks on clears were not taken, resulting in failure to advance on multiple occasions, and several similar instances. When you’re winning, playing “relaxed” or “loose” is fine, but it seemed like the team was resigned to their fate all too early in this one.
On a similar note, it’s clear this team just doesn’t have what it’s going to take to win many games this year (without a VMI-type on the schedule, MSM may have been their last real chance). The goal is to separate championship results from championship culture, since the latter can be built without the former. It seems like the flat effort in the second half was a blow to building the culture from this outsider’s point of view.
Adding talent in the next couple years is going to be crucial – and it’s happening. I can’t imagine what John Paul would give to have some of this team’s 2012 signees on the roster right now. Building toward next year (and three-to-four years down the road) is the focus, something that I speculated could have reduced the sense of urgency.
For The Mount, three Michigan products took the field, all products of UD Jesuit. Jon Marsalese won 14 of 20 faceoffs and picked up one ground ball. Brendan Rooney caused one turnover and picked up two ground balls on D. Conor Carey scored a goal on three shots.
Michigan travels to Cambridge, Mass. to take on the Harvard Crimson. Being the “Harvard of the West” is unlikely to help Michigan win the game.
A two-game homestand against Delaware and Ohio State follows, with the latter taking place as part of the festivities for Michigan’s football spring game. The athletic department is hoping to break the attendance record for a lacrosse game, but that’s a few years down the road, I would guess.