By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
In last year’s tilt, the University of Michigan-Dearborn lacrosse team defeated Aquinas in overtime in one of the most entertaining games of the season.
This season, the annual duel between conference foes gets the early nod for best game of the season, but this time it didn’t go the Wolverines way.
UM-Dearborn lost to Aquinas 15-14 in double overtime. The Saints (3-3) scored just nine seconds into the second extra session, ending a highlight reel back-and-forth game.
It was an exciting game that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, but it left the home team wondering “what if?”
“It’s pretty disappointing. We had our opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize. We did a good job; we came in with a good game plan. Sometimes it’s breaks – lucky bounces,” Hannibal Roda said.
The Wolverines (2-5) got out to a great start – and a big reason for that was Roda. UM-Dearborn led 5-2 after the first period, with Roda scoring two of his team’s goals.
But to the start the second period, the Saints came out with a lot of energy and turned that into goals. Aquinas scored three goals in the first five minutes. Just over a minute after the third goal, the Saints struck again taking a 6-5 lead which prompted Wolverines head coach Jason Watts to call timeout and have his team re-group.
It didn’t work out the way he hoped.
Standing at the half line, Brendan Salva was trying to communicate to his bench. But unfortunately, Salva stepped over the line and was called for offsides, leaving the Wolverines a man down for the next minute. Just as Salva stepped out of the penalty box, the Saints scored. Salva would make up for it by scoring the tying goal with just over three minutes left in the second period.
The third period was not too kind to the goalies, as both teams found the back of the net five teams each. Aquinas would score four of the first five goals of the period. Then UM-Dearborn would rally to score four of the final five goals of the period.
After an equal fourth period, the teams headed into overtime. And after a scoreless first overtime session, Aquinas won the faceoff to start the second overtime and hurried down the field and scored the winning goal.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game. They’re a very similar team to us,” Watts said. “When we had a 5-1 lead in the first, I was pretty happy. We just needed to keep the pressure on. They got five unanswered goals on. A lot of it was off transition and we had a few mental errors. We gave up two goals because our substitutions weren’t done correctly; we gave up two easy fast break goals. [There were a] few mistakes that could’ve been a difference maker in today’s game.”
Roda had his best game of the season, scoring a season-high five goals and recording three assists. Other goal-scorers for the Wolverines were Salva (3), Anders Rasmussen (2), Matthew Rosteck (2), Alex Gjokaj, and Andrew Dixon.
Dixon had a notably impressive game at both ends of the field. He managed to scoop up a game-high nine ground balls and scored a goal in the first period right after winning a face-off.
His well-played game was noted by Watts.
“We needed (Dixon) to step up today. He was our primary long stick middle today so we had to rely on him a little bit more. Dixon performed very well facing off and on defense in general so that was key for us. We’re going to have to rely on him a little bit more down the stretch,” Watts said.
This was the Wolverines’ fourth loss in a row and the schedule won’t get any easier. With just four games to go, the best the team can finish in the regular season is with a .500 record.
Roda recognized that his team has tough games ahead of them, but that he believes they are certainly ready for the challenge.
“We know we got a tough schedule and it was designed that way – it got progressively harder. Our team has yet to really string together a full game; today was the closest we’ve come. In the second quarter we didn’t really show up to play,” Roda said. “We’re looking forward to the next couple games; I thoroughly believe we can play with anybody in this conference and it’s going to come down to how we show up and how we come out and finish.”
UM-Dearborn gets a bit of a breather as it gets an 11-day layoff. The Wolverines will travel to Lourdes on April 6 for a conference match-up with the No. 14 ranked team in the country.