Coming off their third straight MCLA National Championship in the spring of 2010, the Maize and Blue of Michigan will find themselves with the bulls-eye square on their backs for another season in 2011. Following the losses of key individuals throughout the roster from the 2010 squad, the Wolverines will look to reload with young talent for another title run, despite one of their toughest schedules in recent memory. Following their latest triumphs however, U-M knows the recipe for success, and despite the target on their back, and their brutal schedule, many expect the Wolverines to be in familiar territory come May.
The Wolverines have been lucky in recent years with the quality of competition that they have faced in their pre-season scrimmages, and 2011 will be no different. U-M will open their inter-squad scrimmage schedule with a rematch vs. Division I Bellarmine on January 29 in Ann Arbor. The two teams squared off last season in Ann Arbor with Michigan coming out on top 14-8 in the unofficial contest. U-M is set to take on Wittenberg the following week, just as they did in 2010 when Michigan won 10-5. Kenyon closes the pre-season schedule for Michigan seven days later.
According to Head Coach John Paul, the scrimmage schedule should be another good gauge for the Wolverines before they kick off the regular season, “As always we really try to test ourselves early on in the spring. Every time you have the opportunity to take on a Division I team like Bellarmine, that’s good for your team. We then follow that up with a game vs. Wittenberg, a team that has come on real well in the past couple of years under George Harris. Finally we get a chance to take on Kenyon again which for us in the past has been a bit of a pre-season tradition.”
For the first time since 2008, Michigan will open their season with a home game before departing for the annual Spring Break trip. The Wolverines host Florida on February 19 at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse in a tough season opener. The Wolverines haven’t played the Gators since 2007 when Michigan won 12-6 in Gainesville.
“Florida is a really good season opener for us, and it’s always exciting to play one of the bigger named schools. They’ve been a tournament level team now for some time and they’ve got a ton of talent. It should be a tough lacrosse game to get going”, Paul adds.
Michigan will then take to the road for their annual Spring Break trip where the Wolverines will have to be at their best to come out unbeaten. Just a day after arriving in southern California, U-M opens with a neutral-site matchup vs. Oregon as the Ducks
will look to avenge an over-time loss to the Wolverines last year in Dallas at the Patriot Cup. Under a week later, the Maize and Blue will take on Loyola Marymount before closing out the trip with a matchup against recent rival, Chapman. The Maize and Blue have faced off against the Panthers four times in the past three years, including two Championship matchups, and a semi-final battle last season. Michigan has won every contest, but only by a total of nine goals.
“This is as good of a Spring Trip as we’ve ever had. Kicking things off with Oregon at Harvard Westlake High School is going to be great. We’ve developed a real good relationship with Harvard Westlake and it’s a great way to kick off the week and it should be an exciting event overall. We have a lot of respect for Oregon and that coaching staff.
Loyola Marymount has been on the cusp the past couple of years and they’re playing in one of the toughest conferences in the league. It will be neat playing right in the heart of L.A. on their field on top of the parking structure. It’s been a few years since we’ve played them but we’re excited.
Then we wrap it up with Chapman, a team that we’ve developed an outstanding rivalry with the past three years. Everyone will be looking at this game as a good early-test for both of us to see where we both stand in terms of a national title hunt.”
U-M will be back on the road the next weekend, traveling to Athens to take on CCLA new-comer Ohio in the Wolverines’ first conference game of the season. “Our game with Ohio should be an interesting game. Ohio was always considered one of the better NCLL (National College Lacrosse League) teams out there and it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the MCLA and how they stack up. We’ve never been down there so it will be a totally new experience for us,” Paul adds.
Returning home the following Friday, the Maize and Blue will kick off a seven-game home stand with a visit from traditional rival Brigham Young. U-M has won the last five matchups with the Cougars including a quarterfinal win in the MCLA National Championship tournament last season. Paul knows it will be another tough battle however, “BYU has always been one of our traditional rivals and we had always modeled ourselves after their program and how they run things until we finally broke through and started winning our own National Championships. We still consider them one of the most dangerous teams in the MCLA and we have a ton of respect for them.”
Pittsburgh comes in to Ann Arbor on Saturday for another CCLA test to close out the weekend. Michigan last played Pitt in the CCLA Conference Tournament semi-final round in 2008 when U-M won 24-3. “Pittsburgh has been a tournament level team in our conference over the past couple of years and they’ve continued to add talent. With their coaching staff entering their second year and with their continued goal of taking the next step in the MCLA, we’re excited to have them back on our schedule.”
|Date||Time||Opponent (game day rank)||Site|
|01/29/11||7:30 PM||Bellarmine(scrimmage)||Ann Arbor, MI|
|02/05/11||7:00 PM||Wittenberg (scrimmage)||Ann Arbor, MI|
|02/12/11||7:00 PM||Kenyon (scrimmage)||Ann Arbor, MI|
|02/19/11||7:00 PM||Florida||Ann Arbor, MI|
|02/25/11||7:00 PM||Oregon||Los Angeles, CA^|
|03/02/11||4:00 PM||@ Loyola Marymount||Los Angeles, CA|
|03/05/11||1:00 PM||@ Chapman
|03/12/11||TBD||@ Ohio*||Athens, Ohio|
|03/18/11||7:00 PM||Brigham Young
||Ann Arbor, MI
|03/19/11||7:00 PM||Pittsburgh*||Ann Arbor, MI
|03/25/11||7:00 PM||Boston College
||Ann Arbor, MI|
|03/26/11||7:00 PM||UC – Santa Barbara
||Ann Arbor, MI|
|04/01/11||7:00 PM||Colorado State
||Ann Arbor, MI|
|04/02/11||7:00 PM||Arizona State
||Ann Arbor, MI|
|04/09/11||7:00 PM||Missouri||Ann Arbor, MI|
|04/16/11||7:00 PM||Michigan State||Birmingham, MI@|
|04/23/11||7:00 PM||@ Toledo*
Boston College and UC-Santa Barbara will provide another good pair of tests the following weekend as both clubs will look to make a statement on the road. Michigan defeated BC in a 2006 home contest in their last meeting, and won a hard-fought battle vs. the Gauchos two years ago in southern California. Paul comments on how having back-to-back games vs. ranked teams is an excellent way to mentally prepare for the MCLA Tournament, “These games are great preparation for the tournament. It may not be the optimal way to approach the season, but it’s a great way to get ready for the post-season. BC is a very talented team and they’re not the kind of team to take lightly. They can present a lot of challenges. UCSB just made a coaching change and brought in a highly respected guy in Lane Jaffe. I know what kind of talent comes out of there and I expect them to be right back with the elite of the MCLA this year.”
With the season starting to wind down, the Wolverines will have to amp it up in what should be one of the toughest weekends in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse history at the start of April. Two of the MCLA’s best come to Ann Arbor, with the Wolverines hosting Colorado State on Friday, April 1, before a rematch with last season’s runner-up, Arizona State on Saturday. Both teams bounced around the top-five all-season long in 2010, and will undoubtedly come to Ann Arbor in the same position in 2011. “This weekend should be our premier weekend, hosting the likes of CSU and ASU and it being our Spring alumni weekend. A lot of people are picking both of these teams to be in the title game this year. CSU was #2 for most of last season and Arizona State gave us all we could handle in our two matchups last year. Having those back-to-back is like having a National semi-final and final, so not only will it be an outstanding weekend of lacrosse in Ann Arbor, it will also be an extremely tough test for us.”
The Maize and Blue will wrap up their home stretch with a contest vs. up-and-comer Missouri out of the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference (GRLC). Michigan hasn’t squared off against Mizzou since the 2005 season when U-M won their season opener vs. Missouri by a score of 18-1. “These guys are definitely building back up to where they were a couple of years ago, and as a staff, we really got to know Coach Euker this summer at our camps, and that was a major reason for getting these guys back on the schedule.”
The Spartans of Michigan State provide the next week’s test, as Michigan will travel to Birmingham-Seaholm High School for the annual Great Lakes Lacrosse Challenge. Typically the final game of Michigan’s regular season, the matchup will occur a week earlier this year, with a road contest vs. CCLA new-comer Toledo to close out the regular season on April 23. “We bumped up the MSU game a little since in previous years we were finding ourselves playing each other back to back weeks with the CCLA Finals the next weekend. That’s not to say that either team is guaranteed a spot in this year’s finals, but if we both do, we’d rather have a couple of weeks in between. We should have another huge crowd out at Seaholm this year,” Paul adds.
Moved back a week later than normal, the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) conference tournament will take place over the weekend of May 7-8, once again at Saline High School in Saline, Michigan. Only the top four teams in the conference will make the tournament, putting more emphasis on the CCLA regular season. “We love having the conference tournament in our back yard and Saline does such a nice job of hosting the event. With no Friday game either, the regular season takes on a bit more importance.”
Michigan will then practice for a week in Ann Arbor before heading back to Denver for another title defense. Taking place at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the third straight year, the 16-team MCLA National Championship tournament field continues to improve every season, but with three notches on their belt, the Wolverines are familiar with playing four tough games in five days. Paul comments, “We’re obviously pretty comfortable going out to Denver at this point. They always do an excellent job hosting and the overall sense of excitement and energy in the community leading up is great. In the end, we’re pretty excited about the schedule. We think it may be the best we’ve had but we know it’s going to be a challenge week in and week out.”
Contact: Joe Hennessy – firstname.lastname@example.org