JERAMY STOVER, SPORTS EDITOR
A few University of Michigan-Dearborn teams got to get out of the cool snowy state of Michigan over spring break and the lacrosse team was one of them.
The Wolverines traveled to Tennessee late last week for a pair of games over the weekend. UM-Dearborn would end up splitting those games but only one would count in the standings.
On Friday, the Wolverines defeated Tennessee Wesleyan 15-10, but the game was only a scrimmage and doesn’t go in the official standings as a win.
It was an even game at halftime as both teams tallied five goals in the first two quarters.
In the second half, the Wolverines defense got the team going in the right direction with some key plays. The Bulldogs took a couple of penalties in the second half as well and UM-Dearborn was able to capitalize.
UM-Dearborn outscored the Bulldogs 6-2 in the fourth quarter to finish them off and start their trip off on the right foot.
Assistant coach Mike Wagner was happy to see his team finish off a game successfully.
“We have really stressed finishing games, and we did just that. Tennessee Wesleyan got into some penalty trouble in the second half which allowed us to possess the ball and start to build a lead,” Wagner said. “We valued each possession and worked through our offensive sets to get good shots and take advantage of weakness in their defense.”
The Wolverines were led by their big time players as Brendan Salva tallied five goals, while Hannibal Roda scored four of his own.
Other goal scorers were Matthew Rosteck (3), Mitchell Stapleton (2), Anders Rasmussen and Gerald Belanger each scored a goal as well.
Wagner praised his junior captain Roda for having an impressive game. Roda recorded three assists to go along with his four goals.
“(Roda) showed his balance and unselfish play, but also knew when to strike and take advantage of scoring opportunities, especially with a man advantage,” Wagner said.
Goalie David Stephanoff made eight saves in the contest and helped his defense keep the Bulldogs offense quiet late in the game.
On Saturday, the Wolverines fell victim to Savannah College of Art and Design 13-6.
Like the previous day, it was a close game at halftime with UM-Dearborn trailing 7-5. But this time around it was the Wolverines (2-2) offense that would be kept quiet in the second half.
The Bees (3-3) only allowed the Wolverines to find the back of the net once in the last two quarters while scoring six goals of their own.
Wagner said the third quarter was tough on his team as the Bees controlled possession of the ball for much of the quarter.
“[The] third quarter was tough because SCAD was so patient with the ball. They possessed the ball for so long and kept our defense on the field seemingly forever,” Wagner said. “They recovered well on missed shots, swarmed on the ground balls and valued their possessions. They made sure to take high percentage shots and not to force anything. They were very disciplined on offense.”
Stapleton continued his hot streak scoring three goals during the game. Roda and Rasmussen also recorded a goal each.
Freshman midfielder Alex Gjokaj scored his first career goal for the Wolverines.
Wagner explained that the main struggle didn’t come from one specific unit but the team did have one serious problem.
“Our struggles came when clearing the ball. Our defense played well, the goalie played well, but we failed to get the ball out of our defensive zone,” Wagner said. “This allowed more and more possession time for SCAD, and you just can’t overcome that. Eventually it will catch up with you, and you will break.”
Junior defenseman Charlie Miller received high praise from Wagner for having numerous takeaway checks and maintaining his composure as the game slipped away.
Stephanoff recorded a season-high 14 saves during the game and his effort didn’t go unnoticed by his coaches.
“The score seems lopsided, but (Stephanoff) didn’t let in any soft goals and really kept us within striking distance for most of the game.” Wagner said.
With the team returning from Tennessee after the pair of weekend games, they won’t have to travel away from home for nearly a month.
UM-Dearborn usually schedules their out of state trip at the beginning of the season but choose to go a different route this year. Wagner thinks this is a positive because now the team will know more about themselves after the yearly trip.
“I think we are much farther along this season than at this time last year. In years past we would schedule his trip to be our first games but instead we wanted to come down here having played a few games and gaining some experience,” Wagner said.
“We’re five games into the season now, instead of two. So we know more about ourselves and we should be in midseason form when the brutal part of our schedule begins.”
The Wolverines will begin the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference portion of their schedule on Mar. 11 when they play Indiana Tech at the Detroit Country Day Fieldhouse.