DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan-Dearborn men's lacrosse team is set to open the 2019 season against Alma College at 5 pm Saturday at the Detroit Country Day Fieldhouse. The new campaign marks the sixth as a varsity program and the 11th under head coach Jason Watts.
The Wolverines finished last season 6-8 overall and 3-4 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, narrowly missing the WHAC Postseason Tournament. UM-Dearborn earned three wins over teams ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA Top-10 Coaches' Poll, including the first win in program history over Lourdes University.
The Wolverines return a strong core of experienced student-athletes that are prepared to take the next step forward in one of the top conferences in the nation.
"There were large changes we tried to make to the culture of our program at the beginning of last season and throughout the entire year we gained momentum as those changes came full circle," said Watts, who began coaching the Wolverines as an assistant in 2005 before taking over the program in 2009 as the head coach.
"This year we have a unique opportunity to return a lot of starters and build on the momentum from last year."
Leading the returners for the Wolverines is senior attackman, Devon Callaghan. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native set new program records last season with 47 goals and 56 points as he averaged 3.36 goals per game for the Wolverines. Callaghan is on pace to become the first UM-Dearborn varsity lacrosse student-athlete to eclipse 100 career goals. He enters 2019 with 79 goals and 105 points.
Callaghan is one of four seniors, joining Dennis Havlin, Nolan Landis, and Alex Gjokaj. The team also returns six juniors and four sophomores. The group narrowly missed out on the team goal last year of making the WHAC Postseason Tournament and Watts said the returners understand what needs to be different to take that next step.
"Playing complete games and recognizing that the only reason we didn't achieve that goal last year was because of a game we lost by only two goals," Watts said. "We talked a lot in the offseason about focusing on the things that we can control and blocking out the outside distractions."
Watts added that his team is focused on finishing in the top two spots in the WHAC standings to earn the first-round bye in the postseason tournament.
What You Need to Know
- The Wolverine program started as a club team in 2002 and shifted to varsity status in Nov. 2013, beginning play as a sponsored team in the 2014 season.
- Watts has been with the team since its inception, as one of the founding members of the club team and a student-athlete, transitioning to assistant coach in 2005 and then to head coach in 2009.
- Assistant Coach Mike Wagner is in his 14th season as an assistant coach and is also a founding member of the club team as a student-athlete.
- Matthew Laurinec and David Stephanoff each return for their third season as assistant coaches.
- The Wolverines will play seven games against teams ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA Preseason Top-10 Coaches' Poll, including six against members of the WHAC.
- The WHAC expanded to include 10 teams in 2019, with new additions Cleary University and Taylor University.
- The WHAC Postseason Tournament was also expanded from four teams to six for 2019, with games to be played at campus sites.
- Devon Callaghan: Scored a team-record 47 goals and 56 points in 2018.
- Adam Ranck: Scored 21 goals in 12 games in 2018
- Justin Brodzik: Scored six goals as a midfielder
- Ben Phillips: Scored six goals as a midfielder, will move to attack in 2019
- Micah Rinke: Recorded five goals and four assists in the midfield
- Cody White: Started 14 games at defense
- Steven Szymusiak: Started 14 games at defense
- Chad Reynolds: Recorded team-high 56 ground balls as team's primary face-off option
- Liam Turner: Started seven games in net, .449 save percentage
- Devin Smith: Looks to return from shortened 2018 to bolster Wolverine midfield defense
- Dillon Beal: Will make an immediate impact at the face-off X for the Wolverines
- Omar Mahmud: Set to see significant playing time at defense in 2019
- Dylan Fletcher, Cameron Godin, and Jacob Spinello: Add depth to the midfield
- Jay Rupnow: Provides an option in net for the Wolverines.
Schedule at a Glance
- Wolverines open season against Alma College at 1 pm Saturday at the Detroit Country Day Fieldhouse
- WHAC season opens with a home game against Siena Heights University on March 23
- Senior Day is set for April 20 against Lourdes University
- WHAC Tournament will run from April 23-27