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Michigan Enters Division-1

This is from Tim. He writes the terrific Great Lax State about Michigan lacrosse. You should read it.

After four years of dominance of the nation’s top club league (despite falling just short of an unprecedented four-peat), Michigan’s lacrosse program took the big leap over the summer, and will next take the field as an NCAA Division-1 team.

I can almost guarantee that this season will be filled with struggles for the Wolverines. Although their roster has experience, all of that has come at the club level. The competition this season will be bigger, faster, and better than everyone they saw last year. Although Arizona State ultimately proved to be too much of a challenge for the 2011 Wolverines, they don’t have the depth or talent of Delaware, Denver, or North Carolina.

Since most NCAA lacrosse fans likely haven’t seen the Wolverines play, here’s a few things to expect when they take the field:

Trevor Yealy. One of the all-time leading scorers in MCLA history, the 6-3 attackman will likely remain the focus of the Michigan offense at the Division-1 level. He’s played on the crease through much of his career, but has seen expanded roles in the past couple seasons, taking one of the wings on faceoffs, and playing a more versatile role in the offense.

Aggressive ride. Although it wasn’t as dominant in 2011 as it had been in the past, Michigan’s 10-man ride was a key part of their run of success in the MCLA. Despite the step up in competition, the Wolverines’ coaches have said that they’ll still use a 10-man ride as a big part of their gameplan.

No dangles. Offensive coordinator Judd Lattimore has made it clear that his offensive plans will favor solid technical skills with no flashy stickwork. Since the team doesn’t have the talent level that it will in the future (all but two or three Wolverines came to Michigan expecting to play for an MCLA club team), that’s probably for the best to minimize mistakes.

Work-in-progress defense. Ken Broschart, Michigan defensive coordinator, has been rather open about Michigan’s defense being a long way off from where they need to be to win games. Part of that comes from inexperience (some of the Wolverines’ best defenders graduated last spring, including 3-time MCLA Defensive Player of the Year Harry Freid, who will suit up for St. John’s this fall, and starting LSM Matt Asperheim), and part won’t be rectified until a couple recruiting classes come in.

More questions than answers. Michigan is probably going to be bad this year. They didn’t help themselves ease into the Division-1 world, either, taking on a few teams who are ranked in the preseason (and all away from home). This is a building year for the team, with the outgoing club guys fostering a culture of winning for a team that probably won’t do a whole lot of it on the field.

If you held a gun to my head and told me to predict the total number of wins for this team, I’d probably go with no more than two or three (and possibly not even that many, but if they lose to Mercer, it’s Big Trouble). They’ll get their national recognition, thanks to the helmets and the stadium and the history of the school. The tale of the Michigan Wolverines as a Division-1 lacrosse power certainly won’t reach its climax in 2012, but it can set a strong foundation for the future this spring.

Tim Sullivan covers Michigan, Detroit Mercy, and all levels of lacrosse in the state of Michigan at GreatLaxState.com.

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