The Wolverines made their NCAA debut on a play day this past weekend at Loyola versus the Greyhounds and Johns Hopkins. Ulehla picked a tough start for a team full of freshman, and she did it on purpose. Her experience as an assistant at Florida, a start-up team that rapidly rose to the nation’s elite, taught her that there’s no better teacher than experience.
After two years of recruiting, Michigan coach Jenny Ulehla missed the little things about game day.
“It’s nice to put a whistle around my neck,” she said. “I’ve been telling them I set this tournament up to play two nationally ranked programs right away because I can say it over and over again, expressing how hard they have to practice and it’s just so different from high school,” Ulehla said. “When we got on the bus and rolled out I said, ‘Was I right?’ They all said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Michigan lost both scrimmages by a wide margin, but it was a starting point for the Wolverines, which announced plans to field a lacrosse team in 2011 and pushed back its start date from 2013 to 2014 at Ulehla’s suggestion. Expectations were modest for a team that has only had a few practices together.
“We’ve only practiced two weeks. It was good for the team too. They’re going through a lot right now, college, away from home, level of play, first days of schools,” she said.
Michigan freshman Kim Coughlan, a midfielder from Port Jefferson, N.Y., got a little piece of Wolverines’ sports history for when she scored the first goal in Michigan’s first game against NCAA competition, on a low bounce shot on a free position late in the first half of the Loyola game
“It was definitely a wake-up call. We just know how much we have to work harder,” Coughlin said. “We were all shocked by the speed of the game. But it’s not anything that’s unattainable.”
Coughlan and fellow freshman attacker (and fellow Long Islander) Tess Korten appear to be the heart of the Wolverines’ offense, which for now relies mainly on dodging straight to goal. The offensive sets still need some time to develop. Goalies Allison Silber and Grace Collins saw a lot of shots as the Michigan defense saw a Division I attack up close and personal for the first time. Silber started in both scrimmages; Collins came in at the half. Of all the teams at the event, Michigan seemed to be taking the most advantage of the new rule change that allows for defenders to enter the crease. Being the new kids, with no entrenched habits to break, has the occasional advantage.
After a quick trip to Baltimore, the Wolverines returned to Michigan, where they had their first film session, complete with the distribution of individual iPads for each player. Having a new toy took some of the sting out of watching the replay of a pair of blowouts that showed the team how far they have to go between fall ball and their first real NCAA game, a road trip to Villanova on February 22. That’s just 144 days way.
“It’s going to take time, but we’re taking it day by day,” Ulehla said.