February 13, 2009

Michigan Breathes Deep; Dumps UCSB

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Michigan's three-goal lead had evaporated and UC Santa Barbara had managed to come all the way back when Katie Moran, Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year, quick-sticked a goal to tie the game at five apiece midway through the second half.

The tide was on the verge of turning, so Wolverine coach Jen Dunbar decided she needed a timeout. Surprisingly, she didn't call it to impart a strategic change or give her team a pep talk.

She simply wanted them to inhale.

"I just wanted to give them a little breather," said Dunbar. "We were composed the whole game and that was good to see. But we were breathing pretty heavy. We reiterated the things we needed to do and managed to hold on to it."

The sixth-ranked Wolverines managed to regain the lead, finishing with a 7-6 victory over the fourth-ranked Gauchos at the Santa Barbara Shootout on Friday, providing the event with its first upset.

It hardly looked like it would be a one-goal game early in the first half. Michigan exploded off the opening whistle and jumped on UCSB, building a 3-0 lead and forcing Gaucho coach Paul Ramsey to burn a timeout of his own to stem the tide.

"I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting that all," lamented Ramsey. "We came out really flat and they came out really high. They did a nice job with it."

"There is a lot of senior leadership, especially on attack, so that was nice to see them take control of the game," said Michigan freshman goalie Emmy Scheidt, who was facing a ranked opponent for the first time. "It was kind of like them saying, ‘We're going to win this game, no questions asked.'"

The lead was still at three late in the first half, but Francesca Perrone and Camille Elguero managed to solve Scheidt for a pair of goals to trim the lead to 4-3 just before halftime. Alyssa Nelsen opened the second half for the Gauchos to level the game at four each. After the two teams traded goals, it set up Dunbar's pivotal timeout.

It was after the timeout that Amy Johnson reasserted herself in a Michigan uniform.

After being named the WDIA national rookie of the year after the conclusion of the 2007 campaign playing for Mary Ann Metzler (now the head coach at Detroit Mercy), Johnson struggled to find her place during Dunbar's first season last spring.

"It was an interesting transition," said Johnson. "Jen definitely has a different style than [Meltzer], but we're all just really clicking as a team this year. I can't tell you one specific thing that is making me better, but we're enjoying have Jen as our coach."

"We changed the offense all around and she is kind of getting used to it," said Dunbar. "She definitely stepped up huge today."

Johnson came out of the Michigan timeout and scored back-to-back goals by driving to the cage, giving the Wolverines the 7-5 lead and the eventual victory. She finished with three goals on the evening.

Scheidt was impressive - "Their goalie was ridiculous," said Ramsey - especially in the first half.

The win is certainly better than last year's performance, when the Gauchos coasted past Michigan, but Dunbar is also hoping this upset victory will allow her team to start thinking of themselves as a top flight squad.

"We are always focused on all these good teams that are out there, but we need to realize we're one of those teams," she said. "Instead of looking up and worshiping these Top 5 teams, it's about knowing we're one of those teams."


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