Saturday's game against Vermont looked like it was going to be a little too close for comfort, then it appeared that Michigan was going to blow 'em out, then they didn't. Either way, the Wolverines came away with a two-point win and improve their record to 3-2, which matches their best five-game record since moving to D-1.
It seemed like everyone wearing a winged helmet got in on the action Saturday, with nine guys scoring, and three of them also accounting for six assists. With six points on three goals and three assists, Kyle Jackson was once again the go-to for Michigan, while Ian King was right behind with four points on two goals and two assists.
And speaking of Kyle Jackson...
With Justin Gibbons, Decker Curran, and Brent Noseworthy combining for four scores, and Curran's two assists, Michigan's freshmen were once again able to contribute mightily for the good guys. A team that sees its underclassmen click along with the upperclassmen is a team that can win some games.
Heading into this game, Michigan had a history of starting off slow in the first quarter, and Saturday was no different. Although the Wolverines took 13 shots, they finished the frame with only three scores to Vermont's four. They finished the second quarter with more scores than the opponent (3-1), but things took an even more dramatic tack after halftime. Michigan had scored only four combined goals in third quarters this season, but Saturday saw seven scores, which pushed their lead from 6-5 to 13-8.
Michigan's offensive efficiency moved from .327 prior to Saturday to .417 at the end of the game; however, Vermont also moved upward from .358 to .419. Vermont's defensive efficiency was .417, while Michigan's was .419...in other words, this game was about as close as you could get.
In my preview, one of the things I pointed out was each team's man-down defense. Michigan was killing 80% of their opponents' man-up chances, while Vermont was killing 79%. This was the stat that proved to be the most crucial in Saturday's win. Michigan went 4-6 on their man-up opportunities and held Vermont to 0-3 on theirs.
Let's not underestimate just how important that third quarter was, either. Michigan scored seven goals, two of which were on man-up opportunities in a short period of time. Not only that, but they went 8 of 11 on faceoffs and took 21 shots to Vermont's 11 in the frame. And for as good as the third quarter was, it also shows just how bad the fourth went and how close Michigan came to letting the game slip away.
After being up 14-8 at the very start of the fourth quarter, Michigan was outscored 5-2 in the final period. Holding a six point lead is nice, but nothing to get comfortable with in the game of lacrosse. The Wolverines knew first-hand just how quickly goals can come; letting Vermont get not only five of the last seven scores, but three in a row to end the game is concerning. It was a chance to step on an opponent's throat and make a real statement. Instead, we can enjoy the win, but still have a lot of questions heading into this weekend's road trip at Brown...who just happen to be 3-0 and ranked No. 7 in the country...and are No. 1 in scoring, averaging 18 points per game.
Stay tuned for a preview of said Brown game coming later in the week.