The Wolverines faced some of the greatest adversity they've experienced all season, but managed to emerge from their game against Oregon with their 46-game win streak intact. The Ducks didn't go down without a fight, however, pushing the game to overtime before a Trevor Yealy goal gave Michigan a 5-4 victory.
The scene was Dallas for the 2010 Patriot Cup, benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. The MCLA matchup between #1 Michigan and #7 Oregon was the headlining event of the weeklong, 18-game Patriot Cup. The weather, however, didn't get the memo, and the teams had to play through cold temperatures, snow, and high winds. It's understandable, considering the conditions, how low-scoring the game turned out to be.
The game never turned strongly in favor of either team, as the Ducks got on board first, but senior Jamie Goldberg scored for Michigan to tie the game up at the end of the first quarter. Svet Tintchev added a tally of his own shortly before halftime, and Michigan went into the locker room with a slim 2-1 lead. Michigan got third-quarter goals from junior Trevor Yealy and senior Josh Ein, and Oregon notched one of their own to make the margin 4-3 in favor of the Wolverines heading to the fourth. The quarter nearly passed scoreless, but Oregon managed to force the extra frame with just seconds left. In overtime, however, Michigan forced a turnover and Trevor Yealy buried the game-winner for the 5-4 victory.
Mark Stone got the start in net, and finished with nine saves. Faceoff specialist David Reinhard won 7 of his 12 draws, a somewhat subpar result given his exceptional play thus far in the season. Yealy was the only multi-goal scorer, but Jamie Goldeberg and Anthony Hrusovsky each tallied two points.
(Official site recap)
Based on reports (and the @UmichLacrosse Twitter feed), both teams played sloppy, which is understandable given the conditions. However, the season will come to a point where the sloppy play (which happened in much better conditions on the Arizona/BYU road trip) has to be attributed to the team not being quite as dominant as they were last year. Who knows if that will eventually cost them a game.
Michigan will have its second consecutive one-game weekend, as this time they'll travel to Milwaukee to take on Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday. The Bulldogs were ranked #6 in last week's Prodigy Poll, and are the owners of a 6-1 record. Their one defeat came at Arizona State, where Michigan managed to pull out an 11-10 victory. Other than that, the strength of schedule is questionable, as they've defeated horrible Saint Cloud State (pounded by Eastern MIchigan!), unranked MSU-Mankato, Central Michigan, and Wisconsin Milwaukee, and fringe top-20 teams in Lindenwood and Cal. They've lost to the only competition they've played that's even close to Michigan's level.
Offensively, Duluth is led by sophomore attack Alex McNamara, who averages 3.6 goals and 1.6 assists per game, and senior middie Daniel Pitzl (a 2009 2nd-Team All-American), who adds 2.6 goals and 1.4 assists of his own. Sophomores Drake Peterson and redshirt sophomore Kevin Gaydos also average more than three points in each contest. Benjamin Shandley and Andrew Madsen are both very good faceoff specialist, winning over 70% on the year, so there should be some entertaining battles with Michigan's David Reinhard. Redshirt sophomore Joey Slattery is the #1 goalie, allowing 3.2 goals per game, and saving just over 70% of shots faced.
The game is being played at a neutral site (Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI), and weather shouldn't play a huge factor, as it's projected to be in the mid-40s and sunny on Saturday. I encourage all MIchigan fans (and especially lacrosse fans) in the Milwaukee, CHicago, and Madison areas to make the trek out to see a championship-caliber Wolverine squad take on a ranked opponent.
Beating The Varsity Drum
It's no secret that the Michigan Lacrosse team very much wants to earn varsity status from the Athletic Department (and I've made it no secret that I support such a move). I asked a former Michigan Lacrosse player a few questions about why the team deserves to be a varsity sport, and how this should happen. Greatest hits:
On why the Michigan Lacrosse team deserves varsity status:
If you want to know what makes them worthy, the short answer is that they have already gotten most of the way there without varsity status, and now want a chance to be the best of the best. What more can you ask for in sports besides a shot at being the best?
What makes this situation unique is the fact that the organizational structure currently in place is a highly capable group, and has been operating as a “virtual varsity” program for many years now. When varsity teams are added to any university, a typical process would be to hire the staff a year or two ahead of the target inaugural season for planning and recruiting purposes. This team is good to go tomorrow given the chance.
...Which provides a perfect segue into how long it would take for the team to be competitive on the D-1 level, should they be promoted:
There are several reasons that the transition to varsity competition will be much smoother for Michigan than some might think. First of all, the current club team has beaten several Division I programs in exhibition play. The current talent on the team consists of more than a handful of players that either turned down the chance to play for Division I teams to come to Michigan, or would be significant contributors in a Division I program. Another reason is the number of students from the east coast that come to Michigan. Even though the sport is growing across the country, the bulk of blue chip recruits still come from Atlantic states like New York and Maryland. The Michigan brand already draws a relatively large percentage of the student body from these areas, which would enable the rapid expansion of the team’s recruiting footprint into traditional hotbeds. Finally, the planned facilities featured in an earlier post would be bar none the best in the country.
He also points out that the infallible Transitive Rule of Sports Victory show MIchigan has beaten opponents in the past several years that have gone on to make the NCAA tournament in subsequent years, or themselves beaten an opponent that ultimately made the tournament. Assuming a boost from moving up to the D-1 level, they could step in and be competitive right away.
The final question I asked regarded why now is the right time for the team to earn varsity status, when it hasn't been for the past several years:
[T]he program has reached critical mass at the club level. While there are still many good teams in the MCLA, Michigan has asserted its dominance over the past several years and now only plays a few competitive games each season. In order to find good competition, the team has to travel to places like California, Utah, and Arizona, which is not easy to pull off on a club budget. The truth is that the current level of operations is only made possible by the level of private support that the team receives, which is not sustainable in the long run nor worthwhile if the team is never elevated to varsity status.
The change in athletic director played a role in spawning the effort by providing a timeline for taking a proposal to the university. When Bill Martin announced his retirement, Coach Paul initiated several conversations about what we would need to do to ensure that lacrosse was on the new athletic director’s agenda from day one. Unfortunately, our departing AD was not a supporter of elevating lacrosse to NCAA Division I during his tenure.
It seems as though positive steps are being taken toward varsity status, something that certainly sounds long overdue. The change in AD seems to be a major benefit, if only because there's at least the chance he's listening. David Brandon can do no wrong, man. So far, he's been a home run pick.
In the name of this post running too long, I'll cut off the varsity talk there this week, but make no mistake, I'll be hitting this topic in nearly every update.
The men aren't Michigan's only club lacrosse team, as the women's club team has the coveted "Varsity Club" distinction as well. While they haven't reached the same level of success as the men (but who has, really? Penn State club hockey?), they are a strong program in their own right. If a varsity push for the men's lacrosse team happens, it's likely that the women's lacrosse squad might be the program promoted at the same time, to satisfy Title IX requirements.
The women earned a 3-game sweep over the weekend, beating Michigan State 12-2, Pitt 13-10, and Miami (Not That Miami Unless You're Talking About Hockey, In Which Case Yes That Miami) 18-10. Thanks to their media contact Stuart Zaas for keeping me updated, and if you're interested in learning more about the women's lacrosse team, check out their website.