Michigan has played above their collective head in three straight games… does that just mean they’re a lot better by this point? That seems to be the case. There will surely be hiccups down the road, but this young team has grown up a lot during Year Two.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||9||Faceoff Wins||13|
|Offensive Efficiency||.313||Offensive Efficiency||.200|
I was expecting a fast-paced game, but that didn’t come to fruition. I was also expecting a pretty good faceoff specialist from Colgate to perform well, but Michigan was more than adequate there. Michigan also cleared as well as possible, while riding Colgate into some turnovers to win the possession game.
It’s what happened in those possessions that ultimately decided the contest, but it’s going to be expected – especially against a really good team like Colgate – that Michigan’s efficiencies aren’t going to stack up favorably very often. Keeping it close on the margins will be the move for Michigan until they play a couple other weak teams.
They did that in this one, and held down a Colgate team that had really good matchups on them. That’s encouraging.
I’m going to repeat this with each loss: There are no moral victories at this level. A loss is a loss. It would be unfair, however, to not note that a loss like this – staying competitive through four quarters against a very good team – still give hope for the future that victories of the actual variety might be on the way.
The story has been a fairly consistent one for Michigan in losses this year: play pretty close with an opponent through the first quarter, then things slowly unravel until recovering to play even at the end of the game, as well. This one looked like it might follow a similar script when the Wolverines took a three-goal deficit into halftime after a 4-1 run by Colgate, but U-M buckled down and didn’t let a potent Raiders team get much more separation. That’s progress.
A lot of the strides that were made came from the possession game. Brad Lott had an excellent performance against a good faceoff unit. He’s now over .500 on the year, and though the team as a whole didn’t cross that mark on this road trip (as I’d predicted), there is clearly improvement there. Another place that saw improvement? The clear. After a few serious struggle games, they rebounded for a perfect performance against a strong ride. Again, that’s progress.
Only five Wolverines got in the scoring column (and oddly, everyone who notched any points had at least one goal – no feeders in this one). Will Meter seems to be approaching full health after being in and out of the lineup earlier this season – he had four points on two goals and two assists. Mike Hernandez had a goal and an assist. Beyond that, Kyle Jackson’s two goals made him the only other multi-point scorer. Peter Kraus and Davis Joseph added a single goal each.
One thing that I’ve criticized in recent Michigan games has been the volume shooting that some of the Wolverines’ offensive weapons are doing. David Joseph took ten shots, only four of them on the cage to get his single goal. Four of Kyle Jackson’s seven shots were on goal, two of Mike Hernandez’s six were, as were two of Peter Kraus’ five. Some of that is necessity – this team doesn’t have enough weapons to always get a good look, so the lacrosse equivalent of basketball’s “chuck it up and pray” comes into effect from time to time. It must be noted that every player I just listed is in his first year on the field, so increasing the comfort in the offense and at the D-1 level (and seeing some weaker defenses) will be a big boost. One caveat – the backup nature of the game of lacrosse often means inaccurate shots aren’t such a bad thing. Still, you’d rather find cage (particularly, netting) when you shoot; the purpose of a shot is not to reset your possession, except in low-clock situations.
The other bugaboo for some of Michigan’s midfielders this season has been turning the ball over. The clear was perfect, so the transition turnovers weren’t a killer (an improvement over the High Point game), but Hernandez did cough it up three times. Kraus, David Joseph, and Mike Francia each had two. That’s not killer, and even an improvement over the past couple weeks, but combined with low-accuracy volume shooting, it’s an area where just a bit of improvement can make a huge impact on the team’s efficiency.
Gerald Logan had a mediocre game statistically, saving only .474 of shots faced. However, against a talented offensive squad like Colgate, that’s not so bad. Given some of the looks the Raiders got, his performance is excused, in my mind. It is notable that he only faced 19 shots, which is normally a good half of work for him. The defense improved in this one, if only by forcing Colgate to slow down and minimize possessions.
Michigan forced only five turnovers in this one, so there were few standouts from a statistical perspective. Freshman LSM Chase Brown picked up four ground balls to lead the team, and SSDM Dan Kinek had three, but that came from their wing play on faceoffs as much as anything.
Peter Baum had three goals and two assists, while Ryan Walsh had three and one. Michigan mostly shut down Walsh after he had already notched a hat trick by halftime. Clearly, coaching adjustments came into play to a degree. With Michigan’s talent deficiencies, slowing things down with adjustments can be considered a win at times.
The official boxscore. Michigan recap and postgame notes. Photo gallery. Colgate recap and photo gallery. The Greenwich Times talks about the Connecticut-based players who participated. Inside Lacrosse On The Scene.
You can re-watch the whole dang thing on ESPN3.com.
The tough road swing is over, and five of the final seven contests this year will take place in the comfort of Michigan Stadium. The first game back is no cakewalk, however. Defending national champion Loyola isn’t last year’s juggernaut, but the Hounds are still more talented than the Wolverines.
Will U-M continue to build on the lessons learned on the long trip away from home? If so, they can give Loyola a bit of a run. A win, however, looks like it’s out of the question unless just about everything that can go right does so.