Lacrosse: Michigan State Preview

Submitted by Tim on April 23rd, 2010 at 12:03 PM

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This Saturday the #1 ranked Michigan Lacrosse team will take on their instate rival at 7PM at East Grand Rapids High School as part of the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic. Tickets are $6, and gates open at 5:30. Defending Division 2 state champions East Grand Rapids will take on Division 1 reigning champs Birmingham Brother Rice at 1PM as part of the festivities. For more, check out the EGR lacrosse page.

michigan_state_96.pngPast Results

Michigan has an 19-1 record all-time against Michigan State. For the past four seasons, the Wolverines and Spartans have closed the regular season with the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, with the venue alternating between Grand Rapids and Birmingham each year.

In the 2006 regular season, #1 Michigan defeated #22 Michigan State 14-8 at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids. The Spartans would get their revenge in the CCLA tournament, however, coming away with an 11-10 win in which they were dominated in every aspect except the final score.

The 2007 season would bring a sweep of Michigan State, with a 14-6 victory at Birmingham Seaholm High School in the regular season and a 10-3 domination in the championship game of the CCLA tournament at Kings High School in Mason, Ohio. In that game, now-senior faceoff specialist David Reinhard won 5-of-6 draws, and Anthony Hrusovsky notched two goals and an assist. [Ed: full preview after the jump.]

In 2008 (the first of back-to-back undefeated National Championship seasons for the Wolverines), Michigan again earned the season sweep of their in-state rivals. Forest Hills Eastern High School in Grand Rapids was the venue for the 13-5 regular season win. Trevor Yealy scored five goals for Michigan, and defenseman Harry Freid had two assists. In the CCLA Championship game, Michigan again pasted MSU, earning a 21-5 win behind five Trevor Yealy goals and six assists from Kevin Zorovich.

Last year was the first time in three seasons that Michigan didn't beat Michigan State twice, but only because the Spartans failed to make the CCLA Championship game. The regular season ended with a game at Birmingham Seaholm High School that was delayed several times due to lightning. The weather wouldn't be a huge issue for Michigan though, as Trevor Yealy scored eight goals, Kevin Zorovich notched four assists, and David Reinhard won 65% of his faceoffs on the way to a 21-9 victory.

michigan_state_96.pngThe Spartan Season

The Spartans started the season well, going 8-1. That hot start turned their weekend trip to Colorado into a huge opportunity to show that they're for real, but they were unable to capitalize, falling to resurgent Colorado and #2 Colorado State. Their other loss was an 8-5 road defeat to Florida State.

Michigan State has faced many teams in common with our Wolverines so far:

Common Opponents
Michigan Michigan State
Opponent Date/Location Result Date/Location Result
Simon Fraser 3/12, Ann Arbor W 22-10 3/14, East Lansing W 12-9
Eastern Michigan 3/14, Away W 19-2 4/10, Neutral W 14-0
Oregon 3/20, Neutral W 5-4 (OT) 3/22, East Lansing W 9-7
Western Michigan 4/2, Ann Arbor W 29-5 4/8, East Lansing W 25-4
Central Michigan 4/3, Ann Arbor W 19-1 3/27, Away W 16-8
Colorado 4/9, Away L 12-10 4/17, Away L 10-4
Colorado State 4/11, Away W 10-6 4/18, Away L 13-7

The only team against whom Michigan and Michigan State had different results was Colorado State. Michigan had greater goal margins in every game except against Oregon.

michigan_state_96.pngThe Team

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Offensively, the Spartans are led by a trio of attackmen in redshirt junior Patrick Nemes, sophomore Michael Bailey, and junior captain Connor Bush. All average more than two points per game, with Nemes nearing four. They are all well-rounded as well, with only Bailey notching more than two-thirds of his scoring on goals, rather than assists. Nemes also leads the team in ground balls, with 20 according to MCLA.us (which is definitely low, but the underreporting should be even across the roster).

Just looking at (poorly recorded) stats, it's tough to say which defenders are the key players, but senior captain Matt LaCasse (epic flow!) and junior Brendan Hunt lead the unit in ground balls. Hunt also appears to be one of the "tough guys" on the squad (as we'll see in a moment), tying for the team lead in penalty minutes with senior captain midfielder Derek Baynton.

In goal, senior captain Dean Hall has played in every contest, saving 63.9% of shots faced and allowing seven goals each time out. He's been relieved by sophomore Tony Maccio in some contests. The faceoff specialist for State is sophomore Matt Wisniewski.

michigan_state_96.pngThe Vicious Electronic Questioning

Michigan State's second-year headman Dwayne HIcks was kind enough to answer just a couple questions about his team. Much thanks to him:

Tim: Who are some of the key players for Michigan State, both offensively and defensively?

Coach Hicks: Offensively, we have Patrick Nemes, Connor Bush, and Mike Bailey. They will lead the offense and control the ball. Defensively, Dean Hall is one of the best goalies in the country. Matt LaCasse, Brendan Hunt and Mike Schneider are very strong defensemen who like playing physical. I think this will be one of those games where they will be looking to make contact.

Tim: MSU had a big opportunity to make a statement with a road trip through Colorado last week. What went wrong? How does the team recover from losing both games?

Coach Hicks: The Colorado road trip was a great opportunity that just didn't go our way. Both teams were very good and played well. We did not. We did not do the things that helped us win against Simon Fraser and Oregon. So, it was a lose for us but a great learning opportunity. Now we know what we have to do to win upper level games and stick to it.

Tim: Is the team still confident they'll be able to make the MCLA tournament?

Coach Hicks: It's been a strange season for most teams...lots of ups and downs. I think we showed we can play with anyone. Are we sure we're in, no one is sure they're in until you win your conference and get the invite, So, right now, we're focused on the next game ahead of us, then the CCLA Championships. Thinking about the Nationals would be getting ahead of ourselves.

Tim: What will be some of the biggest keys to the game against Michigan on Saturday?

Coach Hicks: I think it will come down to ball control and pressure. The team that controls the ball, wins the ground balls, and doesn't turn the ball over will have the advantage. Michigan is going to pressure us on clears, we'll have to be prepared.

Tim: Win or lose on Saturday, how has the season stacked up to expectations?

Coach Hicks: Our goal was to get this team to the nationals. Once you're at the dance, anything can happen. But you have to get to the dance. We're see how things play out over the next two weeks. I think we're in a good position and we are still in control of our own destiny. So, I'm really happy with that.

Thanks again to Coach Hicks for his time.

michigan_state_96.pngThe Implications

Michigan State has a lot to play for, as getting swept on their weekend road trip dropped MSU to 8-3 from a guaranteed bid to make the MCLA tournament to a bubble squad that might need some help to make the field. A win against Michigan would cement a spot in the tournament, and even a respectable loss followed by the same in the CCLA conference tournament might do the same.

Michigan is playing to maintain their #1 ranking, and likely the #1 overall seed in the MCLA Tournament. A win against the Spartans (still a top-15 team despite their recent struggles) would all but lock that up, assuming another run to the CCLA Championship game, hopefully capped by another victory over MSU.

Aside from that, in-state bragging rights, the allegiances of hundreds of kids in attendance, and even the #1 seed in the CCLA tournament are on the line. Even if this wasn't a #1 v. #12 matchup, it would be a Big Deal in lacrosse, as far as the state of Michigan is concerned.

laxlogo.gifThe Prediction

Michigan has outplayed the Spartans in nearly every game against common opponents (the contests against Oregon in radically different weather conditions notwithstanding), and has proven over the course of the past three seasons that they are a lacrosse force to be reckoned with. They are more talented, more organized, and better-coached than their in-state brethren.

Still, the rivalry factor can be a big deal. Michigan State saves their best performances in every sport for Michigan, and lacrosse, though not a varsity sport, is no different. The Spartans are always hungry to prove themselves against Big Brother.

At the end of the day though, that hunger and that drive for validation haven't gotten the Spartans a win against Michigan in the past five contests, or six out of the past seven. All those advantages that Michigan has built up over the past several years have won out on the field, and Michigan has been dominant. This year should be no different. I see Trevor Yealy notching five goals, and Thomas Paras getting three in a 20-11 Michigan win.

Comments

L'Carpetron Do…

April 23rd, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

State always comes to play against Michigan but, as in many other sports, U of M has a healthy habit of beating them down when they get too big for their britches. I don't think this week will be any different. Keep it going boys!

Tim

April 23rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM ^

The high school game should be pretty exciting as well. I'm torn between attending that or attending Forest Hills Central (alma mater what what) against Pioneer at the same time.

Would have been great if they could have planned it out so that it was possible to see all three games, or even move the FHC/Pioneer game to EGR and have an event stronger event for fans.

WolvinLA2

April 23rd, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

Yeah, I saw that their only loss this year is by 2 goals to New Trier, which is like the biggest high school ever, and the type of high school you would expect to be really good at lacrosse (see: $$$). EGR will have their hands full, and if they lose by single digits, that might be a small victory.

WolvinLA2

April 23rd, 2010 at 6:52 PM ^

Come on, a billionaire is a stretch, it's in a very nice area, but it is a public school after all, and it's still the midwest. You can live in New Trier school district and be middle class, maybe upper middle class.

Sac Fly

April 24th, 2010 at 1:27 AM ^

it's an exaggeration to say that you have to be a billionaire to live there, but the north shore of chicago is towns where the people who live there are lawyers, politicans or CEO's , winnetka is where new treir is. the average home value in that town is 1.3 million dollars, and just down the road still in NT township is a town called Kenilworth. that is the 33rd richest town in the US.

Tim

April 23rd, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

Not to derail the comments of my own post here, but I may as well keep the lacrosse-related commentary in one spot.

A few conferences have tournaments this weekend, as the Lone Star Alliance Tourney actually started last weekend but finishes up this weekend, and will crown it's Auto-bid receiving champion (probably either Texas or Texas State).

The Pacific Northwest CLL tournament starts this weekend, but none of the teams playing are likely to make the MCLA tournament unless they can actually win the conference. Oregon and Simon Fraser have bye and won't be involved until next week. Both of them are pretty much locks.

And that brings us to the interesting tournament: The South Eastern Lacrosse Conference. As you may recall from my bracketology posts, there are three SELC teams that could potentially earn at-large bids to the MCLA National Tournament should they not win their conference: Florida State (lock), Virginia Tech (probably a lock), and Florida.

Florida is the serious bubble team, probably needing at least one win in the conference tournament to make it to Denver. However, due to an odd tiebreaker policy in conference seeding, they ended up with the #8 seed and have to face #1 seed Florida State in the first round.

Barring an upset (Florida State crushed the Gators in the regular-season finale a couple weeks ago), the first round matchup could knock the Gators out of the tournament for good, leaving the SELC with only two bids to the MCLA tournament. This will improve Michigan State's at-large chances if they can't beat Michigan once over the next two weekends.

We'll finally have a bit of clarity and some teams set in stone when it comes to constructing next week's Bracketology post. Look for it Wednesday-ish or so.

claire

April 24th, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

From what I understand, the EGR facilities are spectacular. Plus, there are supposed to be a couple of good watering holes nearby. Hopefully the weather doesn't F things up

Tim

April 24th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

Watching OSU-Air Force on Big Ten Network right now. It's the first time I've gotten to check out a D-1 game between teams that aren't right near the top of the rankings.

I must say, we could definitely play with these guys.

Stump13

April 24th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

Looking forward to see Michigan Men keep the Spartan's down. I too hope the weather doesn't play a factor in the game. I'll be watching rain or no rain. Few years ago we had the same forcasted conditions and fortunately didn't effect the outcome.

Go Blue!