It should come as no surprise that Michigan’s Team Two isn’t yet ready to compete with top-15 teams. They tried to do just that Saturday afternoon against Penn State… and actually played pretty well for a half before a lack of depth and just a few scoring options saw them seriously fall behind.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Penn State 2013|
|Faceoff Wins||15||Faceoff Wins||5|
|Offensive Efficiency||.268||Offensive Efficiency||.207|
Michigan got abused on faceoffs by Brother Rice alum Danny Henneghan. Jack Eisenreich went 1/6 before John Paul inserted LSM Charlie Keady to try to force a 50/50 draw and win some ground balls. Of course, the Michigan wings (and the team in general) didn’t really follow through on that, being out-GBed 44-27.
Michigan’s ride was a non-factor – are they minimizing the use of a heavy ride (which actually paid off big last year), or was it a one-game strategy decision? Going the other way, the clear was pretty good. It was certainly an improvement over last year, when Michigan cleared 9/21 (43%!!).
It would be unfair to start anywhere other than goalkeeper Gerald Logan. I knew after seeing him in Michigan’s team summer camp and the scrimmage against Marquette last week that he’d be an upgrade over Emil Weiss (who I also believed to be a very good keeper), but Weiss showed he’ll be a star. He made 19 saves on 30 SOG, many of them point-blank robberies. He went toe-to-toe with Austin Kaut and if you asked any neutral observer which goalie was better (assuming equal defense and offense), you’d get a clueless shrug. That’s serious.
On the other hand, 30 shots on goal is not so hot for the rest of the Michigan defense. There are a number of circumstances that contributed – Penn State had a very high number of possessions, plus six minutes of EMO time – but the U-M defense still has plenty of room for improvement. Rob Healy, Thomas Orr, and Chase Brown were responsible for four of those penalty minutes, so the defense dug its own grave at times, too.
Moving along to the offense, a few familiar names made prominent appearances in the scoresheet. Will Meter, David McCormack, and Thomas Paras all had two-point days. It was a newcomer, however, who may have stolen the show. Canadian midfielder Kyle Jackson simply looked the part, and his two goals and an assist showed that he’s going to be a bigtime contributor. He’s alllllll left at this point (he had a wide open righty shot on a dodge late in the third quarter, but reset his feet to take it lefty, and the defense recovered to make the block), but Canadians often arrive in college on-handed, and that’s something he’ll improve.
Michigan’s faceoff situation should improve with the return of Brad Lott this week, and some other freshmen who were unavailable against Penn State should continue to bolster the group.
For Penn State, Shane Sturgis had four goals, but it took him 12 shots to get there. That’s an efficiency mark that I think defensive coaches can live with. TJ Sanders, on the other hand, had four of his own on just eight shots, plus an assist. That’s a good day.
Penn State is a damn good team – they return nearly every piece (including Kaut) from a top-ten defense, and have a lot of offensive weapons – so although John Paul won’t trumpet any “moral victories,” this certainly counts as one. It’s a clear sign of growth from Michigan, and an indication that they’ll probably be able to take a couple wins this year.
Feature that will only appear in game recaps when I attend or otherwise get a chance to chat with a player or coach.
Michigan coach John Paul:
“We got out-GBed, but I thought athletically they just got after it a little bit better than we did. The clearing game. Last year, these guys killed us in their ride. Here we are in smaller confines where it’s easier to ride and we cleared very well today. We scrambled to do it a bit, but we did it.”
“You guys are starting to get a sense now that Gerry’s spectacular. He’s a very very good goalie. He’s getting better in the clearing game, that’ll become a strength of his, but we don’t want to lean on him as heavily. I thought we played pretty well 6-on-6 defensively today, I thought we did a pretty good job there. But we can’t give up that much possession, our defense gets tired and we can’t give up transition opportunities.”
“Right now, we’re working on getting to the point that we have an opportunity at the end. That’s kind of the first step. I had a lot of other coaches tell me as we built this thing that would be the progression that we’d go through. We’d have a year where we had trouble even getting close at the end, then we’d have a year where we’d get it close, and then we’d have a year where we start learning to win close ones. That’s the progression we’re going through, right now we have to learn to keep these close.”
Senior midfielder Thomas Paras:
“Penn State’s a great team: all credit to them, thery’re tremendously coached and they’re a really talented team. We’re striving to be a program like theirs, and we just have to work on finishing our games from start to finish.”
“Just play within ourselves – myself included. At the end of the game, you saw that we made some late-minute mistakes, and we saw the score kind of creeping away from us and we were trying to get back into it. We just need to play within ourselves.”
“Any time you go out there whether it’s the fifth game or tenth game of the year, you’re still going to have just that anxiety getting into a game. We’re working on just turning that kind of anxiety into amking sure we’re staying confident, making sure we’re doing all the right things.”
Michigan official site recap. Penn State site recap. John Paul sits down with The Michigan Insider radio show. Boxscore. Photos. Game highlights. Penn State is one of Inside Lacrosse‘s weekend winners.
Michigan has one of its few winnable games of the year coming up Saturday. That’s not to say Bellarmine is any sort of guaranteed win – there’s no such thing for Team Two – but it is an opportunity to play a team that was also in the bottom third of the country nationally. While it’s reasonable to assume Bellarmine is also improved from last year, Michigan’s improvement should be among the greatest in the country.
Bellarmine had a poor offense and an above-average defense last year, and beat Michigan in the possession game. Both teams used a heavy ride and the Knights’ ability to capitalize on the opportunities that created (along with – no surprise – success on faceoffs) mad ethe difference in the game.