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February 13, 2012 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-13

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2B - February 13, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Humble beginnings

PONTIAC, Mich. -
February 12, 2012 was a Sunday. The
sky was a beautiful light blue, and
in the morning, the sun hid behind
clouds that appeared white and spindly
or gray and heavy, depending on how you
looked at them. The roads around Ann
Arbor had a frozen-
white hue - winter -
had finally erased
all memories of an
unseasonably pleasant-
season.
It was the kind of
day you'd like to enjoy
indoors. Yet, my car TIM
hurried along M-14
in the mid-morning, ROHAN
surrounded by snow
banks, with three
companions in tow. We were prepar-
ing ourselves to observe and chronicle a
mystery - our own mythical journey, like
striking out for the Fountain of Youth or
El Dorado - in the first-ever Michigan
varsity lacrosse match.
I had never seen lacrosse played in my
life, but I took comfort that my uneasiness
and curiosity must've been shared by the
handful of brave souls who first watched
Michigan play the new and strange sport
of football in 1879.
I asked the others - two sportswrit-
ers and photographer - for help with
the rules. Theo, a tall and confident New
Yorker, had only watched lacrosse a few
times on TV and had caught not more
than five minutes' worth. Evan, a quiet
and thoughtful gentleman from North
Carolina, covered Michigan's exhibi-
tion match the week prior, and still, he
couldn't help. Our photographer, Adam,
a kind freshman from Seattle, said he
watched his younger'brother play for
years; Adam couldn't explain the rules
either.
I dropped the subject and worried
aloud, asking if they knew if the game
would be played outside. The thought
frightened the passengers, who were just
as in the dark as I was.
Matt Trevor, who's in charge of the
lacrosse team's media relations, poked
fun when I asked him where the field was
located.
"Outdoors," he texted me. "We have
special snowshoes."
The sinking feeling in the pit of my
stomach went away when he said he was
joking.
I, for one, didn't know what to expect.
Off the highway, we passed a boarded-
up elementary school and the ruins of
an industrial factory that surely once
boomed with electricity. Then, like an
oasis in the desert, the trio of connected
field houses comprising the Ultimate Soc-
cer Arenas came into view.
A sign out front flashed: "UDM/UM,
Sold Out."
Inside, on two of the fields, boys no
older than 14 played lacrosse, while par-
ents watched or gossiped with others. The
Michigan lacrosse team warmed up oppo-
site the Detroit Titans, the home team
and villain in this origin tale.
Except for a few Detroit flags, the
building was as unassuming as its bland
exterior. The crowd was a smattering
of parents, families, friends and a few
lacrosse enthusiasts. I counted less than
10 maize shirts, and not many Michigan
students - a group of four said they made
the hour-long trip to Pontiac to see their
friends play.
The announced attendance was 1,800,
but that count didn't include a father who
didn't have a ticket and convinced a secu-
rity guard to let him in with the press to
watch his son play for Michigan.
Two-by-two, the Michigan lacrosse
team filed onto the field. They wore the
famed winged helmets and their jerseys
were maize with white trim and blue let-
tering.

They wore plain white Adidas socks,
plenty of padding and cleats.
Their left sleeves read: "ECAC," rep-
resenting the Eastern College Athletic
Conference, which boasts the University
of Denver as its reigning champion, and
which the newly birthed Michigan varsity
team will join as a full-fledged member
in 2013.
They had used a conference room, its
chairs still set up, as a makeshift locker
room, with their duffel bags set against
the walls.
Then they walked past the cooler sell-
ing $3.25 beers. There was no band to
greet these Wolverines, no cheerleaders
or student section.
Opposite a Michigan team that won
three-straight club national titles from
2008-10 stood Detroit, who finished 6-10
last season and was a pre-season pick to
win its conference.
But the Titans had already lost to No.
19 Delaware and Ohio State by a combined
score of 30-12.
Lined up for the national anthem, the
Michigan Men didn't look like the ste-
reotype. Far from physically imposing or
impressive, this was a mostly longhaired
and scruffy bunch.
Michigan's coach, John Paul, who had

labored as coach of the club team for 14
brilliant seasons, started four seniors:
Brian Greiner, Austin Swaney, Robert
Healy and Trevor Yealy, who I was told
was the best player on the team. It seemed
a fitting reward for being among the trail-
blazers.
A chaotic opening faceoff gave way to
a melodic, calm game of keep away - six
Michigan players passed the ball around
the perimeter. At first, the coaches con-
stantly yelled instructions and the play-
ers' communication could be heard over
the hushed conversation of the crowd.
It was clear - even to the most unedu-
cated - that Detroit played at a break-
neck pace. They tried to force the issue
with pressure on defense and sprint for
easy chances on offense. Michigan, mean-
while, was content holding onto the ball
for as long as it could. All day, the two
would clash.
Like all stories, this day had its heroes.
Doug Bryant - a 6-foot-1, broad-shoul-
dered sophomore midfielder from Princ-
eton, N.J. - scored Michigan's first-ever
goal five minutes into the first quarter.
The Wolverines erupted.
I had missed it while looking down and
taking notes, so I asked the man standing
next to me if he could describe it, and he
said: "I actually didn't even notice. I don't
know much about lacrosse."
Bryant had my undivided attention a
few minutes later, when he whipped a
shoulder-high shot and beat the goalie
from about 20 yards out.
Before the first quarter ended, Detroit
had tied the game thanks to two impres-
sive feats by Titan attacker Joel Mat-
thews. He swerved his way through
Michigan's defense for an easy look, then
matched Bryant with his own long-dis-
tance laser.
Yealy, whose jersey hung off looser
than most players, made two plays to keep
pace. The first was acrobatic - catching
a pass and shooting mid-air - while the
other used a smooth fake at close range
for a rare, easy goal. 4-2, Michigan.
That was the most elated the Wolver-
ines would feel on this day.
At halftime, Theo commented how easy
it was to lose track of who had the ball if
you weren't paying close attention.
Three kids ran out onto the field and
took turns taking shots on net. About
three-dozen fans had begun sitting down,
Indian style, near midfield to get a better
view.
Humble beginnings.
Detroit's tempo made for beautiful
highlight-reel goals, including three
unanswered and two in the span of five
seconds, soon after Yealy's brief outburst.
The buzz on Michigan's sidelines died.
The Titans added five more in a dominant
third quarter, and outscored the Wol-
verines, 3-2, in the fourth. Incessantly
- much like how it must sound for oppo-
nents at Michigan Stadium - Detroit's
fight song blared from two party-like
speakers after each goal.
After a mid-fourth-quarter goal, one
coach kicked a cone. One player paced
on the sideline, holding his arms over
his head. One player shouted, "Don't quit
Blue. Let's go!"
No one said a word.
The final score was 13-9, and Paul
wouldn't give in to the many readily avail-
able excuses. Fatigue may have been a fac-
tor; he had started a formerly third-string,
walk-on goalie - 5-foot-7 sophomore
Dylan Westerfield - due to piling injuries;
and he had suspended "key players" as
part of Paul's "culture building."
He did admit that Detroit's experience
was a distinct advantage over Michigan's
eight-and-a-half-months-old program.
"It's a huge factor - every single day,
every week, there's a big learning curve
for us," Paul said.
It didn't help that Michigan, who
Paul said had to be a possession-team,

was playing "as hard a team to possess
against in Division-I lacrosse" because of
Detroit's pressing style.
Paul called the third quarter "rough,"
and Yealy said the team's mental mistakes
- usually turnovers that led to fast breaks
- started to multiply.
"Mentally, we fell apart," Yealy said.
"(Detroit) came out at half still calm, and
they weren't freaking out that it was a
close game."
Paul had told them after the game,
gathered in the "Meeting Room," that
their mistakes were fixable: "We can play
better. We can play smarter."
They had to start somewhere.
Bryant said it was a "huge, huge honor,"
to score Michigan's first-ever goal.
"It was fun to play in," Yealy said. "I
will never forget this game - even though
it wasn't the outcome we wanted."
When the match was over, the only two
Division-I lacrosse teams in the state of
Michigan lined up to shake hands.
"Good luck this season, boys," said the
Detroit players, as if they knew best the
new and strange journey Michigan had
just embarked on.
- Rohan can be reached
at trohan(Oomich.edu.

PAULS HERMAN/Daily
Sophomore Doug Bryant scored the first two goals in Michigan men's lacrosse program history, but they came in a losing effort to Detroit.
Inexperience shows in
Mich igan lacrosse debut

Bryant scores first two our defense," said Michigan coach
John Paul. "We were making some
goals in Michigan's mistakes offensively, giving away pos-
sessions. The mistakes add up. At this
men s lacrose level, you just can't make mistakes."
Michigan struggled to recover late
program history in the game, turning the ball over on
several ill-advised passes that led to
By THEO DUBIN odd-man rushes for the aggressive
For the Daily Detroit squad.

PONTIAC, Mich. - The Michigan
lacrosse team initiated another vol-
ume to the encyclopedia of Wolver-
ines' athletics with their inaugural
match against Detroit Mercy on Sun-
day. The Wolverines played in front of
a packed house in the first collegiate
varsity lacrosse match between two
in-state teams in Michigan history.
Michigan showed both its inex-
perience and its promise with a 13-9
loss, as the team was unable to answer
when Detroit pulled away with a flur-
ry of unanswered goals in the third
quarter.
Ultimately, it was inexperience
that plagued the newly minted squad.
Michigan committed a few cost-
ly turnovers that sparked Detroit's
third-quarter run, failing to slow the
game down or recover from their mis-
takes.
"Our defense let down a little bit
in the third quarter, but it wasn't just

"We are here
to become a
great lacrosse
program."
The Wolverine team, which was a
club team just a year ago, showed a
lack of mental toughness displayed by
more veteran teams.
"There is always this question in
your head: 'Are you ready for this?'
" Paul said. "Getting out there and
weathering the storm a bit defensively
and then putting that first goal in, that
goes a long way right there in giving
the guys confidence."
But Paul's team showed its grit in

the final minutes of the game. With
under four seconds to go, Detroit was
called for a penalty and the Wolver-
ines got possession just inside mid-
field. Instead of waiting for the final
horn, Michigan coaches continued to
yell instructions and the players con-
tinued to attack the defense.
"We have the attitude of no excus-
es," said sophomore midfielder Doug
Bryant, who scored the first two goals
in program history.
"We take things on a day-by-day
ha-.s ia:d look to get better every sin-
gle time we play."
Maintaining a positive attitude will
be essential for the Wolverines as they
try to build a program. The Wolver-
ines' performance showed that they
are a work in progress, but the team
showed it has some talent in its ranks.
"We are not always going to be
the most talented team in Division-I
lacrosse," Paul said. "We know that,
so we have to be the smartest team.
That's what we talked about after the
game. We can play better if we play
smarter."
Building a program can take years,
but Paul seems invested in making the
rookie program into a seasoned com-
petitor.
"We are not here just to be here,"
Paul said. "We are here to become a
great lacrosse program."

Bektas topples No. 2 Gullickson,
Michigan faces stiff competition

By ADAM FISHER
Daily Sports Writer
As the old adage goes: "To be the
best, you have to beat the best."
But it never said anything about
beating the best consistently. And
though Michigan fields one of the
elite collegiate women's tennis teams,
it too faltered in the face of three top-
15 opponents in three days.
The No.10 Michigan team began its
run in the 2012 National ITA Women's
Team Indoor Championships with a
4-0 shutout win on Friday over No.
15 Clemson at The Boars Head Sports
Club in Charlottesville, Va.
After easily clinching the doubles
point, the Wolverines won three
consecutive matches, behind the
racquets of freshman Emina Bektas,
junior Mimi Nguyen, and freshman
Sarah Lee, who played at the No. 1,
No. 3, and No. 4 singles spots, respec-
tively. The three players who had not
yet finished their singles matches had
their matches abandoned after Michi-
gan earned the decisive fourth point.
"Clemson's a team that's very
solid," said Michigan coach Ronni
Bernstein. "That was a really good
win for us."
The following day, though, No.
3 Duke turned the story around on
Michigan. The No. 1 doubles team

of Bektas and sophomore Brooke
Bolender won its opening match, but
it wasn't enough. The top-seeded Blue
Devils prevailed in every other facet
of play, winning the remaining two
doubles matches as well as the first
three singles matches.
Just like on the previous day, three
Wolverines were stranded on the
court - but this time, after being
handed a 4-0 shutout loss.
"Against Duke, we fell a bit flat,"
Bernstein said. "We definitely did not
play our best."
The loss spoiled Michigan's aspira-
tions to go further in the main draw of
the tournament, but the Wolverines
were matched against No. 6 Georgia
in consolation play on Sunday. Once
again, the duo of Bektas and Bolender
won its opening doubles match, 8-2,
but the Bulldogs won the other two
doubles matches to take the point.
Then, Lee, who has not dropped a
singles match this season, defeated
her singles opponent in straight sets,
6-1, 6-1.
Deadlocked at one, the Wolverines
pulled ahead when Bektas defeated
the nation's No. 2 collegiate player,
Chelsey Gullickson, in straight sets,
6-2, 7-5. With the victory, Bektas
maintained her perfect singles record.
"She lost to (Gullickson) in the fall,
so that shows improvement," Bern-

stein said. "It's a big win for Emina.
She's getting more and more con-
fidence in herself. She sees herself
coming through, and today it went to
a tiebreaker in the second set and she
was able to pull it out. We look for-
ward to her doing that even more."
But once again, it wasn't enough.
Georgia rallied to win the four
remaining singles matches to emerge
with a 5-2 victory, ending Michigan's
ITA indoor journey.
"Obviously, you're not happy with a
loss (against Georgia), but I think we
did a good job today setting ourselves
in position to win the match," Bern-
stein said. "We just came up a little bit
short."
"I think (our performance was)
positive - it's an extremely tough
weekend," she added. "We're play-
ing Duke and Georgia. Duke's a top
five team. I think Georgia could be as
well."
Next Wednesday, the Wolverines
will head to East Lansing to take on
Michigan State.
"We're gonna take a couple days
off," Bernstein said. "I think that's
what we need right now. We've had
a tough stretch here. This weekend's
pretty physical with three matches,
so it'll be a good week and a half that
we can just come back home and get
ready for Michigan State."

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