WDIA: Michigan Reloads in Time for Rival MSU
by David Ely | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
At the beginning of the season, before the Michigan women's
lacrosse team had even played a game, head coach Jen Dunbar knew
this year would be more challenging than last.
The Wolverines graduated eight starters from last year’s squad that placed fifth at Nationals, and a lot of inexperienced players were now asked to take on larger roles. There’s always a learning curve for any young team, but the Wolverines’ play at the start of the season showed how much growing Michigan had to do to get back to the level it was at last year.
Michigan lost all four of its games during the Santa Barbara Shootout (Feb. 12-14) to start its 2010 campaign 0-4.
The Wolverines’ four losses in three days were one less than the total number of losses Michigan had in all of 2009, when it finished 20-5.
“We’re very inexperienced this year,” Dunbar said. “We made a lot of silly mistakes (during the Santa Barbara Shootout) that shouldn’t be happening.”
Dunbar said her team struggled during the Shootout to run her motion offense.
Motion attacks require a strong sense of timing, as well as teammates’ ability to read a defense and react the same way. Both those skills depend on a group of players that have spent plenty of time practicing together.
The Wolverines didn’t have that luxury heading into the Shootout, and their lack of rapport showed.
“They didn't know what they were trying to do,” Dunbar said.
But that was a month ago. The 12th-ranked Wolverines have practiced, had two tune-up wins against Toledo and John Carroll, and Dunbar feels they're ready for the season’s stretch run.
“We have a big weekend coming up,” she said. “We had some pretty good practices and we’re where we need to be... Things have come along much better. I think people are more competent with each other. It’s noticeable. They have a clear understanding of what things we’re trying to do.”
If the Wolverines have any intentions of making another trip to Nationals, this is a pivotal weekend.
On Friday night they travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on undefeated and 16th-ranked Michigan State in a big WCLL match. Then Michigan has two more league games -- against No. 14 Pittsburgh and Miami (Ohio) -- on Saturday.
A weekend sweep would push the Wolverines over .500 for the first time this season and bring their WCLL record to 5-0.
The three games will have a direct impact on how the rest of Michigan’s season unfolds, and Dunbar said “communication just really has to be on this weekend.”
Dunbar said her team needs a big weekend from senior Amy Johnson, who’s second on the team with eight goals. Defensively, the Wolverines will depend on the quartet of Kelsey Martin, Sam Staroba, Melissa Oddo and Quinn Golinske.
Despite the team’s 0-4 showing during the Santa Barbara Shootout, Dunbar said that she was able to draw some positives from the experience.
Dunbar said that she was encouraged by how her team competed against Cal Poly after falling behind early.
“I think with that everyone had the confidence,” she said. “They knew we could play.”
Dunbar added she still feels that the Wolverines have what it takes to make Nationals, despite the hole into which they've dug themselves.
“We all know that we need to play better than we did in Santa Barbara to make Nationals,” she said. “Are we a little concerned? Definitely. But we know we can do it.”
It’s the time of the season when a lot of the top teams on the West Coast take a couple of weeks off from competition. No. 1 Santa Clara gets about three weeks off in between its win over Chico State on March 13 and an April 3 game against UC Davis. No. 2 Santa Barbara beat UCLA on March 12 and next plays on April 3 against Cal Poly… After a 2-3 record in February, No. 9 BYU is 3-0 in March. The Cougars beat Colorado State 6-5 and Air Force 21-0 on March 6. They topped Wyoming 21-2 on March 7… Of the three undefeated teams in the top 25, Michigan State is ranked the lowest. The Spartans (3-0) are the No. 16 team in the nation. Michigan State will get its chance to prove it’s legit on Friday against No. 15 Michigan. No. 1 Santa Clara (11-0) and No. 12 Virginia Tech Club (2-0) are the other two undefeated teams that are ranked
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