Throughout all of its success this season, the Michigan men’s lacrosse team rode on the backs of its calm and calculated offense. Yet, in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, that production was nowhere to be found.
In their 15-8 loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday, the Wolverines’ offense put forth what many would call an uncharacteristic performance. For the majority of the season, Michigan had been able to put up double-digit points against almost all of its opponents.
Against Duke, however, that was not the case.
Instead, the formerly third-ranked team in the nation for shooting floundered in the face of the Blue Devils’ aggressive defense.
“They did a good job scouting; they did a good job of changing up what they were doing, at least defensively,” senior midfielder Jacob Jackson said. “So, they were pretty well prepared, and we could see that.”
However, what the Wolverines didn’t see coming was junior attacker Michael Boehm’s performance — or rather, lack thereof.
Having shattered records, been awarded Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten Tournament and recently named an honorable All-American, Boehm successfully created a name for himself in the lacrosse world — a name that the Blue Devils knew.
And so, each time Boehm gained possession of the ball, Duke defenders swarmed him.
Yet, despite the mass of defenders that Boehm battled each time, he managed to still rocket six shots at the cage. Unfortunately for Boehm, none of those would hit the back of the net, leaving him unable to score a single goal against the Blue Devils.
With one of their star players neutralized, the Wolverines would have to fight even harder to come out on top.
Michigan increased its effort, totaling 38 shots from a multitude of players throughout the game. However, rarely any of them resulted in a goal.
With just under two minutes left in the match, senior midfielder Michael Cosgrove dodged through Duke’s defense to create an open lane to score. Pivoting and hurling the ball, the Wolverines’ sideline watched anxiously, looking defeated as the ball sailed wide and missed the net.
It was shots like these that left Michigan’s hope of a comeback in shambles.
“We were getting contested shots early, which our aim wasn’t right, or we didn’t get all our mustard on it,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “I think you have to give a lot of credit to Duke’s defense for putting us in those situations. And their goaltender, he played really, really well. We just weren’t as crisp as we could have been, and a lot of that had to do with Duke’s pressure.”
Indeed, it was evident that the Wolverines allowed pressure from the Blue Devils to get to them.
Out of their 22 shots on goal, 14 were saved by Duke’s goalkeeper. Yet, many of the remainder of Michigan’s shots were taken prematurely — an unexpected move by its typically steady and purposeful offense — culminating in many high and wide shots.
And so, weighed down by the pressure of Duke’s powerful and aggressive defense — and missing the vital contributions of key players — the Wolverines’ offense ultimately crumbled. And with an already tired defense, they were unable to make a comeback, ending their season.
Michigan’s mighty offense helped the team’s reputation soar, propelling the Wolverines through the best season the program has ever seen.
But in Michigan’s case, the Wolverines could only fly so far before they fell — and when their offense fell, it brought the whole team with it.