Tomorrow, Michael McDonnell will walk to the X in Michigan’s new state of the art 2,000 seat lacrosse stadium and the 2018 men’s lacrosse season will get underway against Cleveland State. After an 8-6 season last year and going 0-5 in B10 play there is no where to go but up. New head coach Kevin Conry will look to lead the Wolverines to a better record and potentially a win in conference play. So let’s look at the Wolverines this year.
Senior Michael McDonnell is the returning starter for face-offs and will essentially be unchallenged at that spot. McDonnell has never dominated at the dot going 52% on face-offs last year. If the Wolverines hope to be competitive in Big Ten play they need more consistency at this position. It’ll be interesting to see if freshman Connor Cronin gets a run early in the year to see if he can provide an opposing style to McDonnell. Cronin is much more of a finesse player, while McDonnell is a power guy. Switching them throughout the game could throw off the opposing team and breathe some life into the specialist unit.
In goal, last year’s starter Tommy Heidt will get the first crack at the starting job. However, sophomore Matt Trowbridge will also get a shot. If new head coach Kevin Conry is anything like his old boss at Maryland, John Tillman, then the incumbent has the best chance to play.
This will be Conry’s bread and butter. Last year's defensive unit wasn't good, giving up more than eleven goals per game and only forcing 93 turnovers on the year. To be competitive with the Marylands and Johns Hopkins of the world the Wolverines must be more aggressive on defense and not allow lackadaisical passes. The leader of the unit will be junior Nick DeCaprio, and it will be his job to shutdown the opposing team’s best interior player. Players like Eric Smith and JM Priddy provide valuable experience on the backend as well. Long stick midfielders have to do a better job helping close passing lanes and shut down snipers. Expect highly touted freshman Ben Cirella to get a run and solidify a starting position by the time B10 play comes around.
This is the most experienced group that Conry has to work with. Returning starters PJ Bogle and Decker Curran look to provide the goal scoring from the short-stick middies. Now sophomore Avery Myers should be much improved from his stint on the first line last year. Captains Parker McKee and Chase Young will also provide good depth to this unit. Look for a freshman attacker like Kevin Mack to make the transition to midfield so he can get on the field. What Mack lacks in height he makes up for in stick speed as he can rip it.
The most difficult unit to project on the field isn’t much easier this year than it was last year. There’s one known on this end in junior Brent Noseworthy who was one of the two best players on the offensive for the Wolverines. With the loss of 47-point-scorer Ian King from last year, Noseworthy will be the face of this offense. He’s a big body who should be able to have his way around the restricted area. Rocco Sutherland almost never looked to shoot last year, but was an elite passer around the cage. Look for him to step into a bigger role in Conry’s offense this year and not be afraid to step into a few shots. The player to keep a lookout on this end is freshman Alex Buckanavage. He was a top-30 player in most rankings out of high school and can shoot all around the cage. He’s a smaller guy, but playing with Noseworthy and Sutherland should help him get shots off. If he has a chance to step into a shot, good luck.