I made it out to the scrimmage tonight and came away very impressed. Michigan was very talented and played hard, and when they made mistakes they were saved by outstanding goaltending. They lead the whole game and gave Bellarmine fits with their ten-man ride. I think Bellarmine didn't bring nearly the same level of intensity because for Michigan this was a chance for the Wolverines lacrosse team to make a statement, but regardless Michigan clearly showed they belonged on the same field as a division 1 team.
Lacrosse Preview: Exhibitions
Before the Michigan lacrosse team kicks off their campaign to defend back-to-back MCLA National Championship seasons, they'll participate in 3 scrimmages against varsity squads. D-1 Bellarmine will visit Oosterbaan Fieldhouse on Sunday, with D-3 teams Wittenberg February 6th and Ohio Wesleyan February 12th. If you want to see Michigan compete against some pretty good teams (and hopefully show they're worthy of varsity status), the exhibition seaosn is a good chance.
Bellarmine plays at the top level of NCAA Lacrosse, in Division 1. That said, they're certainly a lower-tier D1 squad, finishing 6-8 last year, and #52 of 59 by LaxPower's computer rankings. Bellarmine is located in Louisville, Kentucky and participates in the Great West Lacrosse League. Their most notable win came against Binghamton, who finished with a 90.7 power rating. Notable losses came at the hands of a couple schools you may have heard of by the names "Notre Dame" (11-6 winners) and "Ohio State" (11-7 winners).
The Knights return their top 3 goal-scorers from a year ago in Sean Doyle, Derek Hopcroft, and Jarrett Davis, all seniors. They also return their #2 groundball collector in sophomore Karsen Leung, though they lost #1 in that category, faceoff specialist Bobby Snider. Their #2 faceoff guy, Craig Carson, is a sophomore this season, and he won 48% of draws last year. Goalkeeper Scott Bowles, who started 12 of Bellarmine's 14 games last year, returns for his junior campaign. He went 4-4 last year, saving 50% of shots faced and allowing 10.51 goals per game.
Though Bellarmine was kinda bad last year, they return a lot of their important pieces, and they certainly have the ability to reload more than a club team like Michigan. This should be a good challenge for the Wolverines, and a chance for fans to see them against D-1 competition.
D-3 lacrosse is considered to be about on-par with the MCLA, in which Michigan plays. Wittenberg finished 66th out of 156 teams in the division by LaxPower's computer rankings last year. Their final rating of 83.93 is well below Michigan's 89.90. Wittenberg plays in the same conference as Ohio Wesleyan, Michigan's next scrimmage opponent, and lost to the Battling Bishops 13-7 last season. The Tigers finished the season 7-6.
Last year's leading scorers were a duo of sophomores from Pickerington North High School (alma mater of Justin Boren) in Matt Lord and Mitch Cohagan. Faceoff specialist Kevin Pfotenhauer, who won 53.4% of his draws last year, returns as a junior. Both of last year's goalies, Mark DeOliviera and Spencer Baker, return, and DeOliviera was a captain last year as a sophomore. He saved 60% of shots he faced, and allowed just over 8 goals per game. Assuming no attrition, the roster should be very experienced for 2010, as there were only 3 seniors on last year's squad.
Wittenberg, though they played near middle-of-the-pack in Division 3 last year, will probably be a better team this time around, and should be a good test for the Wolverines. Michigan scrimmaged the Tigers prior to the 2009 season as well.
Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops(!)
Ohio Wesleyan was the most successful last year among Michigan's pre-season opponents. The Battling Bishops, on top of having an awesome mascot name, finished 10-5, and with a 90.24 power rating on LaxPower, good for 16th in D-3. Against competition of Michigan's approximate caliber (89.90), they lost at Lynchburg (89.7). The Bishops lost to Denison in the first round of the D-3 NCAA tournament.
Rob Young is the team's leading returning scorer, but the next two from last year (Nick Gallagher and Karl Zimmerman) have both graduated. The faceoff duty was split last year, and Ricky Sheetz, who had the most opportunities and won 56% of his draws. The next two in line have both departed. Jud Hall was the team's starting goalie last year, and he'll be a junior in 2010. He allowed 7.76 goals each game, with a .561 save percentage.
Based on power ratings, Ohio Wesleyan should be Michigan's toughest competition of the pre-season, and they're the last chance to prepare for the regular season.
After the exhibition season ends, Michigan kicks off their regular season with a road trip out west over spring break. They'll play games at Arizona, Arizona State, and rival BYU. A full preview of the regular season (including, you know, a preview of Michigan's team) will be coming up when the regular season draws near.
I was there too. Michigan and Bellarmine actually practiced together last night, so the Knights knew what they were getting into. Michigan didn't surprise them. They were just better. More athletic, more skilled, better plan. And they were doing it without their MVP from last year, Kevin Zorovich, who is out right now with an injury.
It's a scrimmage, so both teams emptied their benches in the second half, but Michigan's starters completely dominated the starters from a scholarship supported D1 team. That's pretty impressive.
This team needs to be varsity. If they are doing this as a club team, imagine what they could do with blue chip recruits.
I agree, Michigan was very impressive. I didn't mean to slight them at all with my comments about their intensity and use of the ten-man ride. From a pure talent standpoint, it certainly appeared Michigan was the better team. It's unbelievable that a club team can take down a d.1 team with scholarships.
There is a big gap between the lower d.1 teams like Bellarmine, Detroit, etc. and the big boys like UNC, UVA, Syracuse, etc. I think that Michigan would be able to be competitive right away but would take some time to compete for tournament berths, but I think the time is definitely right to make the jump to division 1.
They completely kicked Bellarmine's ass. The Knights had a bit more depth (what do you expect with, like scholarships and whatnot?), but the final margin could have been closer to 20-5 than 14-6.
I've known that this team could compete with some varsity squads, but to make a D-1 team look like they don't even belong in Ossterbaan is something else.
First- Great to see mgoblog covering lax. Saw it from the team's twitter feed. Wasn't there on Saturday but wanted to make a quick comment re continued mention of Bellarmine's scholarship support. While I'm not surprised that UM was the better team (when I played we destroyed a D1 team at a similar level to Bellarmine during a real game) I would caution being impressed by the fact that they beat a team with scholarship support. At Bellarmine's level they probably have somewhere around 3-4 full rides to spread across an entire team of roughly 30 guys. Given the academics, current visibility of the program and excellent recruiting by coach John Paul and his staff, I would maintain that Michigan has access to, and recruits, players that are much more talented, on average, than you would see on D1 team at the level like Bellarmine. Most guys would rather get a degree from Michigan than get 5k a year from a school like Bellarmine (no offense). Lacrosse is funny in that the top 5 or so D3 teams are much better than the lower level D1 teams. I have no idea how good Ohio Wesleyan is supposed to be this year but they're generally a top 15 D3 team and I would suggest that the game against them will be a better barometer for Michigan and that a general comparison against upper echelon D3 teams is more appropriate than lower level D1. All that said, being hands down the best team in the MCLA is what it's all about for this team and they've proved that they deserve that moniker over the last two seasons.
Bellarmine is a full funded program meaning they get 12.6 scholarships. So nevermind on that point.
The pre-season continues tonight with the Wittenberg game. Wolverines still without Kevin Zorovich.
MIIICH beat Wittenberg last night, 10-5. They were able to empty the bench, playing everyone who was healthy.
They play again on Friday in scrimmages against Ohio Wesleyan and Trine.
The Daily on the Wittenberg game:
I love lacrosse, it would be awesome to see the club team become a varsity one at some point. Does anyone know if this is even possible?