First things first, for those that were unable to catch them in the liveblog...
I don't want to turn this into a cliche "they said Michigan couldn't threepeat, and nobody outside of Ann Arbor wanted them to win"-type column, but it's the truth. Those who participated in Friday's liveblog got to see the groundswell of hate for Michigan. Opposing players and fans (and probably even coaches) resent Michigan's success, and they resent the support Michigan's program gets. What they don't think about is that Michigan Lacrosse earned this success, and earned the support that they receive from donors.
So maybe Michigan didn't face the same type of adversity as most teams at the MCLA Championships, but the pressure to repeat and being on the wrong side of popular rooting interest were obstacles of their own. Regardless of why it happened, only one team could walk away with the honor of being called "Champion." That team is the Michigan Wolverines.
Arizona State drew first blood, but just like the semifinal game against Chapman, Svet Tintchev wasn't going to let his team get into too deep a hole. Trevor Yealy and Jamison Goldberg also netted first-quarter goals for the Wolverines to go along with another Tintchev tally, but Arizona State notched four of their own for the 5-4 lead.
The second quarter was the difference. From David Reinhard winning the opening faceoff, Michigan dominated time of possession. They did not allow ASU to successfully clear their end of the field until 6:30 had elapsed in the second. Anthony Hrusovsky and Yealy scored Michigan goals; the Sun Devils only managed three shots. Michigan carried a 6-5 lead and the momentum into the locker room.
Just 16 seconds into the second half, Arizona State's Ryan Westfall assisted his brother Tyler, and the game was knotted up once more. Michigan regained the lead on a Yealy tally a minute later. Thomas Paras pushed it to two goals early in the third. WIth just over five minutes left in the quarter, David Rogers fed Clark McIntyre in front of the goal, and McIntyre scored on a beautiful turn-and-shoot to close out the third quarter. Score: 9-7 Michigan.
Reinhard won the opening faceoff of the fourth quarter, and Yealy rewarded his effort by giving Michigan a three-goal lead less than a minute into the fourth. The teams traded possessions (with Michigan's being much longer) until Arizona State's Eric Nelson again closed the gap to two. On the ensuing faceoff, ASU's Ian Anderson scooped up the ground ball, and after a short possession, Ryan Westfall again fed his brother Tyler, and suddenly, the game wasn't so comfortable for the Wolverines.
Matt Asperheim brought the lead back to two with just under seven minutes to go, as the long-stick midfielder's bouncing shot was partially blocked by ASU goalie Dylan Westfall but dribbled between his legs and over the goal line. Though Arizona State won the ensuing faceoff, they were whistled for an offside infraction. Josh Ein fed Clark McIntyre on a quick restart with the Arizona State defense sleeping.
12-9 Wolverines, but the three-goal lead didn't mean game over. The Sun Devils responded a couple minutes later on the extra-man offense to draw within two. Ryan Westfall scored with just 0:08 remaining on the clock. The ensuing faceoff was probably the most important one ever taken by either Arizona State's Kris Saunders or Michigan's Reinhard (though Rhino's taken quite a few other big ones). Reinhard won the draw, and Harry Freid tried to launch the ball down the field to kill the remainder of the clock. The ball went out of bounds, however, and although the clock showed all zeroes the refs determined that 1.5 seconds should be returned to ASU at midfield. The Sun Devil Hail Mary was wide of the net.
Michigan wins 12-11. National Champs.
(Svet Tintchev and Josh Ein pictured at right being all "What up, three in a row" thanks toMike Brand)
With three consecutive National Championships, and just one game lost in three years (Michigan is 58-1 from 2008-10), the natural question is "where do we go from here?" Michigan, to the ire of every other team, has outgrown the MCLA. The situation has become Michigan v. The Field every year. It's obvious that the Wolverines' coaching, program, and system have set a new standard for club lacrosse, that no one will challenge any time soon.
So does Michigan's Athletic Department finally give this program a chance to compete against the nation's best on the varsity level? There are developments within both Michigan lacrosse and NCAA Division 1 that make it almost a now-or-never proposition for the Wolverines to have a successful transition to the varsity ranks.
First is the fact that Michigan risks stagnating or even regressing if there's nowhere to go but down. If there was competition for the National Championship every year, or if the Wolverines weren't going undefeated (or nearly so) every season, it would be a different story. Michigan's hunger has driven them to success over the past three seasons. Once that hunger is gone, what might happen?
The other development is the growth of Division 1 lacrosse in places other than the East Coast. Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame are all traditional Michigan rivals. All three play varsity lacrosse. Within the past couple years, Michigan's first D-1 varsity program started up at University of Detroit. The University of Denver hired legendary Princeton coach Bill Tierney, and it's only a matter of time before there's championship-level lacrosse being played in the Mountain Time Zone. The window of opportunity is there now.
Do I think it will happen soon? I sure hope so. Those in and around the program are hopeful as well. There won't be immediate national championships. There will probably be more failure than anyone associated with the program is used to experiencing. But that's how growth happens. To show your support for a varsity promotion for Michigan lacrosse, comment here on mgoblog, and visit their website at mgobluelacrosse.com.
Your analysis gets at the kind of schools that are sponsoring lax right now, but you are misinterpreting the data: of the 60 schools that have lax, only TWO are located at the same institution as a football factory - ND and OSU. (maybe include 'Cuse in that number as well, but not the ACC teams). It is major college football, and the implications it has for both Title IX and where funds go at a school, that are the major stumbling blocks for D1 lax. Regionalism, while certainly a factor, is much less of one than it used to be. Evidence for this can be found with ESPN's decision to invest in Lax. Clearly, their market research indicates a national audience for lacrosse, so we get tons of college lax on tv, and almost no college hockey, which has about the same number of programs. This is a D1 football related problem - DIII, where the impact of football is quite different, is showing growth. (over 130 programs)
Whoops - you're right - forgot about PSU - they've been around for quite a while, but have never been relevant. My sense is that PSU was a stagnant program - their head coach had been around for 33 years (and he inherited the program from his father.) They are mid-search for a new coach now. Depending on who they land, they could make a real turnaround.
First off. A hearty congragulations to Michigan Lax. I was fortunate enough to catch the last 3 games of the tournement on live feed. The boys in blue performed extremely well against a very high caliber group of teams. Having caught the lacrosse bug, I also watched a number of the D-1 games which were broadcast last weekend (and have been repeated during the week). Much as it pains me to admit it, I was thrilled when ND won last weekend. Any of the naysayers who proclaim that top notch lax is only played by a few elite (and not so elite) east coast schools should take note. With the long tradition of lax at the University, a tradition that goes back significantly longer than many D-1 schools, the quality of the education one can obtain and the extremely strong school spirit of U of M grads, if the University was to go D-1, I have no doubt that it would quickly attract even more top talent than it currently attracts. My understanding is that, as a self funded program, each player athlete must, in addition to paying a large tuition bill (especially for out of staters), pay dues to the team in the sum of $3500, a not insignificant amount. Even without offering scholarships, if the Athletic Department funded the program and therby alleviated the need for students to contribute, the pool of talent would be greatly enhanced. I truely believe that, given varsity status, the team would rapidy be ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation and that it would not be long before they were invited to the NCAA play-offs. Does that mean that I think they will be in the final four anytime soon? No. It will take time. But it is doable and putting off the decision will only make the climb to the top ranks tougher. Given the alumni support which already exists for the sport, the University now has the opportunity to develop a great program on the cheap. This is not an opportunity which should be squandered. The time for varsity status is now.
This past weekend has shown that it's high time for Michigan to make lacrosse a varsity sport. First, the UM lax threepeat shows not only is the program is far beyond the club level, but the talent of the recruits that come to Michigan to play club lax makes it clear that they would soon be a force recruiting at the varsity level. Second, Notre Dame beat Princeton, a perennial lax powerhouse, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. If a midwestern school like Notre Dame can build a top tier varsity program, than Michigan could do so easily. Third, Army beat Syracuse, perhaps the best overall team of the past decade. Johns Hopkins got crushed in a first round defeat. The changing of the guard has begun in varsity lacrosse, as it becomes a national sport. Any one who thinks that Michigan could not become a top 20 varsity program in 3 years is clueless about lacrosse. As a varsity program, Michigan could recruit nationally at both public and private high schools with top lacrosse programs. It's national alumni base and following, high academic reputation (which is important to recruit at the private schools), and national draw as a university would enable UM to attract talent from all areas and retain the best players in the midwest. Congrats to Wolverine lax for a threepeat and an insane three year run of success. Now it should be on to the next level.
As a former player who played with John Paul when I was there, I'm very impressed. The team makes me proud, and I'm amazed at what they've been able to do without the University's support of a varsity team. It's about time...It's been about time. They've done everything they can and will continue to drive, but at some point, people will decide to leave and go to schools that recognize them at the varsity level. If we lost John Paul, it would be a blow to the team.
To hear that Univ of Detroit will have a varsity squad before Univ of Michigan is pathetic. Come on. We all understand Title IX, but let's find a way to get these guys to varsity status.