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.