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Michigan beats Penn State 16-4 to win its second straight Big Ten Tournament

Hardly anyone expected this three weeks ago.

The now no. 17 Michigan men’s lacrosse teams had lost three straight games, falling outside the top 25 teams in the Inside Lacrosse poll. They were 1-3 against Big Ten opponents and the offensive production had dried up after a red-hot start.

But now those concerns have been put to rest. Capping off a four-game winning streak, the Wolverines retained their crown and won the Big Ten Tournament in style with an impressive victory over No. 9 Penn State.

Michigan (10-6 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) defeated the Nittany Lions (11-4, 3-2) 16-4 and dominated the match from start to finish to defend their title.

“We had 62% of the time of possession,” Michigan head coach Kevin Conry said. “So it was really great for us to really appreciate the ball, and it gave us a lot of confidence.”

The Wolverines play their best when they have the ball control to slow down opponents with their passing and open up scoring positions. When they do this, they tend to score a lot of goals. And because they had so much possession, they were able to get into that attacking rhythm. The offense started early in the game, as senior midfielder Michael Boehm opened the scoring for Michigan just six seconds into the game. The Wolverines led 5-1 at the end of the first period and never trailed at any point during the game.

It was the performance of junior forward Ryan Cohen that made such Michigan dominance possible. Cohen registered a whopping seven assists, and his style of play – in which he often pushes to the top left corner of the pitch and directs the ball to some of the team’s more natural finishers – was what really allowed the Wolverines to dictate possession.

And to round out Cohen’s assists and passes, Michigan turned to the same man they had looked to all year for goals: graduate forward Justin Tiernan. Tiernan put in his joint-best performance of the season with five goals after being held to just one by No. 2 Johns Hopkins in Thursday’s semifinal.

“Justin is a competitor,” Conry said. “And he was very disappointed in his performance on Thursday. He made it his mission to do everything he could for his teammates to make sure he was much better on the X tonight.

Tiernan and Cohen dominated the stat sheet, but they weren’t the only ones with their attacking contributions. Graduate midfielder Christian Ronda, junior forward John Morgan, junior midfielder Aidan Mulholland and senior midfielder Justin Brown also helped the Wolverines maintain possession and facilitate the attack with second assists, which then allowed Cohen to make the decisive passes needed for the goal .

And while the offensive effort was tremendous, the defense did its part in holding the top-scoring offense in the Big Ten to just four goals. Sophomore defenseman Mason Whitney led the way, causing three turnovers, while also aiding the transition with three groundball pickups.

The defense’s efforts were also largely due to the outstanding efforts of sophomore goalkeeper Hunter Taylor. Taylor took control of the net with 12 saves on 16 shots, including three in the first period to help Michigan build early momentum. Taylor also backed the Wolverines’ transition game, with three ground ball pickups and a caused turnover.

“He went out on a mission to just be calm and be in control,” Conry said. “And he really executed that today and I thought he was a big spark for us.”

It was a near flawlessly executed game for Michigan on both sides of the ball, with each positional unit playing its role to perfection, and the result was a resounding triumph.

After a three-game losing streak and a slump in offensive production, it would have been safe to wonder if the Wolverines weren’t quite the same unit that stormed to a Big Ten Tournament victory last year. But after a winning streak and a sensational run in the tournament capped by a dominant performance in the championship game, Michigan is once again king of the Big Ten.