Lax: Streak Over, New One Starts? Comment Count

Tim April 12th, 2010 at 11:48 AM

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[Ed: Spring report coming this afternoon. I have to decrypt some stuff.]

The longest win streak in the history of the MCLA ends at 49. Michigan coming out of the weekend with a 1-1 record on the road wasn't a surprise, but the way they did it certainly was. The undefeated and seemingly-invincible Wolverines were run off the field by reeling Colorado for three quarters before staging a furious comeback that fell just short. They recovered against #2 Colorado State a couple days later and will likely maintain their #1 ranking.

Colorado

Only able to check the score of this game on the UmichLacrosse Twitter feed, it sounded like the Wolverines were getting run off the field on Friday night in every way. In actuality though, they were the more dominant team in every way except the scoreboard. Michigan had 48 shots to Colorado's 33, nearly doubled them up in groundballs, and cleared the ball at a higher rate. In addition, David Reinhard won nearly 70% of the faceoffs he took.

So what was the difference? Michigan wasn't getting good looks at the cage early in the game, and wasn't forcing Colorado's goalie to work quite as hard as Mark Stone. Only seven Wolverine shots in the first half were on the goal, and though three of them went in, Colorado scored six before the break, while forcing Stone to make five additional saves.

The third and fourth quarters, Michigan had more effective offense, but Colorado's Bradley Macnee came up huge in the cage throughout the third, while his teammates gave CU an insurmountable 11-5 lead going into the fourth. Though a late Wolverine rally would bring the final score within a pair of goals, they were unable to finish the comeback, and lost for the first time in nearly three years.

Official Site Recap.

Colorado State

Nobody knew exactly how Michigan would react after a loss, because it hadn't happened in quite some time. In fact, nobody except the seniors on this team had ever lost a game in maize and blue(!). It's no surprise that a John Paul-led squad would be able to turn that adversity into motivation against a top-notch opponent, as the Wolverines came right back with a comfortable 10-6 win over previously-undefeated #2 Colorado State.

Michigan was able to turn yet another dominant statistical performance into scoring production, breaking a 5-5 three-quarter tie with a dominant 5-1 fourth quarter for the big win. Eight different Wolverines scored, with Trevor Yealy and David Rogers both notching a pair. Stone came back from his shaky start against Colorado to stop 15 shots while only allowing 6.

The Colorado loss seems to have been just what this team needed. They had been sleepwalking a little too much in previous games, and destroying their air of invincibility could re-energize them for a Nationa Championship run. If the CSU game is any indication, that may be exactly the case.

Official Site Recap. Colorado State Recap.

What it all means

[…after the jump. That's how you tease, baby.]

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The goalie battle, surprisingly, didn't seem to be shaken by Friday's poor night for Stone (uh, pictured at right). Despite the 43% effort on Friday night, he was still the man on Sunday and performed admirably. It was reminiscent of last year's national championship game when Andrew Fowler was shelled in the first half against Chapman. The coaches stuck with him and he rewarded them with a strong second half and the victory. It's clear that Stone has passed Fowler for good, at least for the 2010 season.

The CSU win was probably enough to keep Michigan at #1 in the national rankings. They have defeated every team from #2 to #7 in last week's poll except #4 Chapman. However, the Panthers don't have a single win as strong as any of Michigan's (they squeaked by BYU 12-11 at home, while Michigan beat the Cougars 13-9 in Provo).

Michigan has just a couple regular season games left against Purdue and Michigan State. Both should be winnable, meaning Michigan should still be in line for the #1 overall seed in the MCLA tournament. Maybe (juuuust maybe) losing a game was just the thing this team needed to stay hungry for another championship run. I'll have another MCLA Bracketology post later this week.

Up Next

Purdue

Saturday April 17, 7PM EDT, Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, Ann Arbor MI.

Record: 3-7 (0-4 GRLC)

Rankings: NR, #79 computer.

Common Opponents: None

Previous Meetings: W 12-7 in 2003.

purdue_96.pngPurdue's record has been ugly this year, and not in the manner of Colorado, who had at least been losing to some good teams. The Boilers are 3-7 against MCLA D-1 competition, with only two games against currently ranked opposition. #12 (MCLA The Lax Mag)/#20 (Prodigy) Virginia Tech pasted the Boilermakers 16-3 early in the year, and #15 (MCLA The Lax Mag)/#18 (Prodigy) Lindenwood University rocked the Black and Gold 13-4 yesterday.

purdue_96.pngPurdue is led in scoring by redshirt sophomore attack Bo Dietrick, who scores nearly three points per game. There are only four other players on the team averaging over one point per game, with senior midfielder Jason Saunders and senior attack Alex Cole notching the most assists on the team.

purdue_96.pngDefensively, freshman Cameron Kilar leads the team in ground balls (and penalty minutes), junior David Grier also gets plenty of run, and junior midfielder Thomas Christenson plays primarily a defensive role. Junior goalie Michael O'Neill is the top man between the pipes. He saves 58.8% of shots he faces, while allowing just under 13 goals each contest. So, yeah, he faces a ton of shots on goal.

purdue_96.pngNo sugarcoat, Michigan should completely run the Boilermakers off the field. This team competes with the directional Michigans for the worst squad Michigan has faced all year. The Laxpower computer ratings say only Eastern Michigan is worse among Michigan's opponents, with a 70.32 rating to Purdue's 71.78. This should be another depth-building game by the time the second half rolls around, and serve as a good tuneup for a suddenly-crucial contest against Michigan State next week.

I encourage everyone to come out to the Purdue game, as it's the final home game of the 2010 season for the Wolverines. There should be a number of out-of-towners in Ann Arbor for the spring game, and everyone who can do so should come support an extremely successful Michigan squad.

Comments

Snowden

April 12th, 2010 at 12:46 PM ^

[insert disclaimer about being a lacrosse fan at about a level 2 paladin with not even 12+ wisdom yet]

You nailed it on the lackadaisical nature of the team. There were a number of early moments that were very similar to, in basketball parlance, Guy Makes Basket Then Steals Disinterested Inbound Pass From Other Team To Score 4 Points In 3 Seconds And Kill Other Team's Fanbase. Even as the game progressed, I could sense that there was this attitude of "Hey, what's the big deal, we got the horses to come back," only for it to kick in too late.

Even though we lost, I will say that it was awesome watching the attempt at a comeback. We have serious fire power. Chalk me up in the Not Worrying About Winning Another Champeenship column.

phjhu89

April 12th, 2010 at 1:20 PM ^

that the team, which I am sure had become complacent, got it back together very quickly to beat one of their top opponents this year. Show good mental toughness. Better now than later!

I really hope that e-lacrosse starts to post some of the Michigan away games. I'd really like to see where their problems against Colorado were. Sounds like uncharacteristic turnovers hurt, but also the official game recap refers to several goals against were due to broken rides. JP also mentions the ride in his comments. Sounds like Colorado put serious planning into breaking the ride. (they cleared at pretty high rate for a Michigan opponent - about 60%) Michigan can't afford to give away open net goals against the better teams on their schedule.

I just wonder why JP feels he needs to make the 10-man ride a primary riding strategy for Michigan. They certainly don't need it to beat the directional schools and the like, and I really think it is a liability against better opponents - it almost cost them the Oregon game (without the empty netter(s) that games doesn't go to sudden death overtime) and from the description of the Colorado game, there were at least 2 goals off the broken ride - Colorado's margin of victory.

Anyway, I've posted on my concern about the 10-man ride before, so I'll stop going on about it!

BernieMac

April 12th, 2010 at 1:53 PM ^

Basically, after the defensive team regains possession in their zone, they have to clear the ball to the offensive zone while maintaining possession. During this time, the team who was previously on offense tries to "ride" the team trying to clear the ball, attempting to force a turnover and a possible easy scoring chance (like a full court press in basketball). A 10 man ride would include all players on the field - including the goalie- making it more difficult for the other team to find an open man downfield to get the ball out of the defensive zone. Good teams can sometimes pick this apart, and this can result in an easy scoring opportunity for the team clearing the ball because the goalie has left the cage to cover an attackman. We used to get shredded back in high school trying to do this because our goalie was really slow.

This website actually explains it pretty well too: http://www.laxmagazine.com/tips/coaches/2008-09/images/coachpdfs/075LM0…

mgolax

April 12th, 2010 at 7:05 PM ^

Good explanation and good points about the 10 man. Just a quick counter-point:

Most players have a good understanding of a basic "safe" ride like a man to man or basic zone coming out of high school. In contrast, it's a rare high school that uses a 10-man. Therefore, teaching a ride like the 10-man takes an enormous amount of practice time and IN-GAME UTILIZATION. I stress that last part because, in reality, game experience is what shapes an effective ride. If you have coached at any level you know it is not easy to teach or practice riding.

So, a team that wants to implement a 10-man ride, even in limited situations (late in the game, need to score) should look for every opportunity to practice and use that ride in game situations BEFORE it becomes necessary, i.e. early in games or during blowouts.

Therefore, I think it's strategically important for Michigan to develop their 10-man as their primary ride. It gives them the needed experience but at the same time, any team at this level has the option of falling back on an effective safe ride.

I think the better complaint would be that if it is clear we have been well scouted, and the opponent is disciplined, well-coached, and has excellent stick skills, we should be more prepared to abandon the 10-man or at least mix it up a little. It seems to me that Oregon and Colorado are the first teams to have any success breaking the 10-man (in terms of one or two broken ride goals), and they still cleared at a rate of 16-27 and 19-29, respectively, which isn't too disheartening.

To be clear, Michigan from what I saw has been using the 10-man even in unsettled situations, i.e. with no horn and sometimes even no whistle (for those unfamiliar, a horn allows free substitution with play stopped, which you could use to get your riding personnel on the field and in position, whereas an endline whistle merely stops play long enough for the ball to be picked up and brought back on the field) which adds an extra dimension of complexity for both teams. Complexity = harder to implement as a team and harder to clear against.

Summary for a long post: I think the ride works well how it is implemented. However, the more in vogue 10-man becomes and the more it is scouted and/or prepared for, the less effective it becomes. Oregon and Colorado may be the vanguard for skilled opponents who have it figured out enough to break it occasionally. And a broken 10-man is usually a goal against.

Tim

April 12th, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

BernieMac's description is pretty good. Putty it as simply as possible, it's like a full-court press in basketball, with the goalie also manning up on someone (leaving the goal exposed if the ride gets "broken").

The opposing team has 10 seconds to get the ball past the line at midfield, and another 10 seconds to get it into their offensive box.

phjhu89

April 12th, 2010 at 2:04 PM ^

EDIT: took too long to compose!

Before laying out what a 10 man ride is, here's the context you need:

Although there is not a shot clock in lax, you do have to advance the ball in a way similar to hoops. Teams have 20 seconds to advance the ball across the midfield line, and then another 10 seconds to get it into the offensive restraining box (think blue line). So, like in hoops, teams generally try to deny the clear. The only question, is how high risk a method you use.

In a 10-man ride, your 10 men each match up with one of your opponent's 10 men. This means that your goalie has to come out of the net to cover one of your opponent's attackers. You can see the inherent risk right there, as the goalie can be taken quite far out of the crease. The ride can be broken using speed, picks, and accurate passing. If you use this strategy regularly (as Michigan does) you are making the assumption that your athletes are faster than your opponents, and that your opponents aren't the most accurate passers around. Against the directional schools, that is a safe assumption. Against better teams, maybe, maybe not.

The 10 man ride is generally used only when you MUST HAVE THE BALL BACK NOW! 2 minutes left, down by 1, etc. It is a strategy akin to the full-court press in hoops (less risky), or pulling your goalie in hockey (more risky).

To learn more about rides see this section from Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition, by David Pietramala.

Tim

April 12th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

At a high level, 10-man rides are fairly rare except when needed. Michigan generally uses it all the damn time, since they know they're better than just about everyone they play.

phjhu89

April 12th, 2010 at 2:19 PM ^

It works great on the directional schools, denying them many offensive possessions at all, and giving Michigan a whole lot of extra possessions, resulting in ridiculous scores like 29-5, 19-1, etc. Better squads can break it more regularly, with potentially disastrous results.

Obviously, Michigan has had huge success with this technique. However, just as Michigan is benefiting from the increase in overall high school talent, so are other teams. Also, it is clear that other clubs are trying to copy Michigan's organizational approach, so it is reasonable to assume that there are some teams that will able to beat your ride.

I wish they would spend their time practicing a pressure ride instead - practicing your ride is the key to an effective ride, and all the time they spend practicing their 10-man means less time to get good at a safer ride for when they play better competition.

DayMan

April 12th, 2010 at 8:54 PM ^

When it comes to riding, there's really no need to practice the simpler stuff, like the safe ride. As long as you go over it once in a while everyone should be fine.

Additionally, it's not just the ten man ride that makes Michigan so good at riding. Yes it's a little more complicated, but it's the fact that they ride harder than anyone else that makes them so good. If you watch the attackmen in particular, you'll notice that they sprint back and forth across the field until the opponent crosses midfield. A lot of teams don't pursue opponents with their attackmen in such a manner as it takes incredible discipline and conditioning. In fact, the attackmen for Michigan probably work the hardest on the ride, something that cannot be said for most teams.

Ethan.C

April 13th, 2010 at 8:37 AM ^

Thank you for your comments and your thoughts. We appreciate the things you have to say and we hope that you will continue to write more in the future. Again, thank you for taking the time.

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laxalum

April 13th, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

I played at Michigan and coach HS lacrosse now, and I posted my thoughts on the use of the 10 man ride in detail on another thread that I can't find right now. Coach Paul goes into a lot of detail on this stuff in his alumni emails. (I'm hoping this week's email comes out today. I can't wait to read his candid thoughts on what happened this weekend.)

The bullet point version is:

The team has won 50 of 51 since 2007 with the 10 man as their main ride. They've done this against what is consistently one of the toughest strength of schedules in the MCLA, often on the road. They practice it in everything they do. Almost every drill ends in a ride/clear situation. It's part of their core culture and lexicon.

The team has multiple rides that they use in various situations. The 10 man is their base ride, but they do switch to completely different rides at times. The 10 man they run also has some pretty significant variations to counter adjustments other teams make in their clear.

Michigan runs the 10 man differently than any team in the country, except maybe NY Tech (NCAA D2 - not sure if NYT is still using it the same way this year since Jack Kaley retired). Asst. Coach Broschart brought it with him. (He was an AA at NY Tech and coached there as well.) For one, they use it off of saves and turnovers. NOBODY else does this. It takes a total commitment to practice to do this. Also, they have some technique things they do that are very different than the typical 10 man ride. It's a complex system. I have heard JP say that it's a big reason the team always struggles in fall scrimmages (against NCAA teams), but typically dominates NCAA teams in spring scrimmages. In the fall they are not yet running the ride effectively. I have picked JP's brain pretty extensively on their system, but I can't replicate it at the HS level because we don't have enough practice time in the off-season to get good at it.

Every team they play in the MCLA is terrified of the UM ride. They have to prepare for it, and like any unique system there is no way they can really replicate it in practice.

Do teams sometimes get cheap goals or good chances off it? Sure. It's like playing press coverage in football. For Michigan, the risk/reward has obviously been worth it. For every opportunity they give up, they get multiple scoring chances in return.

Michigan typically dominates even the best MCLA teams with the 10 man. It's not just the weak teams. The stats back this up. For video evidence, take a look at last year's semifinal against Colorado and two years ago in the semis and finals against BYU and Chapman. In last year's final, Chapman had to completely alter their strategy and personnel to gameplan for UM's ride. They took their best athlete and one of their top offensive middies effectively off the field for offense in order to use him on D to shut Yealy and to clear. It worked in a sense, but it definitely hurt them offensively. They cleared more often using him than most teams do against Michigan, but the strategy they came up with basically to run this player up the field like a punt returner, which does not expose the ride to fast breaks.

In order to win as many games as they have, the Michigan coaching staff has to be pretty good at making in-game adjustments. I'm sure they do this with the ride as well.

Reading between the lines it seems like Michigan was simply not mentally ready on Friday. I'm sure CU did some things to beat the ride, but if the team isn't playing well, they aren't playing well. They definitely rebounded pretty well from the loss. I'm hoping it was more of a fluke loss that will help them in the stretch run. I can't imaging trying to keep a team motivated for every single game when they haven't lost in almost 3 years. Even tougher when you're playing a pretty solid team (national semifinalist last year) you've never lost to (they were 7-0) that you destroyed twice the year before and with the #2 team in the country coming up two days later.

phjhu, it's obvious you know lacrosse. I really respect your opinion on here. I hope my viewpoint from the inside (kind of) helps explain the UM philosophy on this. When I get JP's email, I'll pass along his general thoughts on what happened.

phjhu89

April 13th, 2010 at 5:30 PM ^

I respect your outlook as well, and the insight into the thinking of JP and the historical outlook on the program is really valuable.

The loss was probably, in the long run, a good thing. Hopefully it re-focused the team - I think we might have seen an indication that a loss was coming from the sheer number of really dumb penalties taken against Central two weekends ago. I guess we'll see against Purdue this weekend.

Anyway, regarding the ride, I definitely get that the 10 man ride has been incredibly successful, over a long period of time, for Michigan. But I think the landscape is changing a little bit (and will change dramatically if D1 happens) It looks to me (and I readily admit that I am a newbie to MCLA lax) like the other top MCLA programs are trying hard to emulate Michigan's approach: operating as virtual varsities, stepping up the intensity of their practices, game planning for specific opponents. Of course, this is really only a handful of programs, and they haven't beaten Michigan yet. (Or am I delusional and way overestimating what this handful of programs are capable of doing?) Honest question: do you think that they still need the 10-man ride to win?

But I am also really thinking about the future - if they go D1 they'll end up in a conference that will probably have its share of tomato cans who will not be able to handle the ride. But even in a conference like the ECAC you've got coaches like Tierney at Denver and Toomey at Loyola who you can bet would have their teams well prepared to exploit that ride. And if they are lucky enough to get some out of conference games against the elites, I don't even want to think about what some of their speedy midfield snipers with cannon shots could do shooting at an empty net from midfield. (think about the Bratton twins at UVa and shudder....)

I can't imagine how difficult it is for Coach Paul to play in the here and now, against an increasingly less-competitive schedule, while also trying to build a program for an uncertain future. Everything I have read that he has said publicly on the subject of the future is so circumspect, almost like he can't really take the risk of believing that D1 will happen one day. Gotta be tough!

laxalum

April 14th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

I see your concern, but I think you are approaching this from a high level D1 perspective. Michigan is a D1 caliber team, but they aren't a high level D1 caliber team. They are the clear cream of the crop in the MCLA. They don't have to strategize like an elite D1 team. In some ways they do, but in many ways that might even be counter-productive. Their record and the stats show that their riding philosophy continues to dominate even the best MCLA teams. If that ends, I'm sure they will adjust. For now, why change? They do something that sets them apart and wins big games. For the record, I do think the 10-man is an integral part of their success. I don't think they are 50-1 without it. Lacrosse is all about possessions. Michigan puts more emphasis on the ride, faceoffs and ground balls than most other teams, and those are the three main ways to alter the number of possessions (aside from pressure defense). There are other teams that emphasize faceoffs and ground balls at a high level, but I really think the thing that has set Michigan apart on the field the past three years is the ride. Again, even the best MCLA teams cannot handle it. If you watch Michigan in spring scrimmages against NCAA teams, it's the same thing. They can't clear.

I also don't think what they are doing tactically now is in any way relevant to a future D1 team. These are good coaches. If D1 happens, and JP (and KB) get the jobs - if they need to adjust, they will adjust.

JP's alumni email came out about an hour ago. As I suspected, the Colorado loss was more about the team being flat than anything else. He painted a pretty grim picture of their mental state leading up to the game. He blamed the loss mostly on focus breakdowns, especially on defense. He didn't talk about the ride much, which leads me to believe that it wasn't a major deciding factor. He did say the CU goalie stood on his head, which can be an upset factor even when a great team has everything clicking.

As for the penalties, I don't see a trend with this team on taking too many of them. They are way, way behind their opponents on total penalties, which makes sense because they have the ball a lot more thanks to the ride (see what I did there?). In MCLA land, where officials are often one step away from sideline parents in lacrosse knowledge, the number of penalties in a game is often a crapshoot. Michigan had 2 penalties against CU and only 1 for 30 seconds against CSU. If it was an issue for a game or two, it's not anymore.

kw_hanna

April 13th, 2010 at 3:43 PM ^

Fans showed up in droves on Sunday in Fort Collins. I thought the CSU fans were pretty rowdy, but it was in good fun. They heckled Stone in goal, and he made some HUGE stops in the fourth quarter.

I think my favorite phrase that came from the mouth of a CSU student that others called "Jose Querv-Ho" was when he said, "Hey, Michigan. Are you getting tired? You look tired. The air's too thin up here." This of course came right in the middle of Michigan scoring 5 straight in the fourth quarter. After each goal, the heckler continued, "Are you getting tired Michigan?"

The answer was obviously, yes. They were getting tired of scoring goals on the Ram goaltender.

L'Carpetron Do…

April 14th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

I'm sorry to see the streak go, but then again 50 out of 51 ain't so bad. More importantly, I'm glad they stuck it to those CSU Rams. I always loved beating those guys more than anyone else. Go Blue! Beat Purdue and State!