DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan-Dearborn men's lacrosse team is set to open the 2020 season this weekend with a home game against NCAA DIII opponent Alma College at 6 pm Saturday at the Detroit Country Day Fieldhouse in Beverly Hills, Mich.
The Wolverines are entering their fifth season as a varsity sponsored team and 16th under head coach Jason Watts, as the veteran coach will look to push UM-Dearborn to the top of a highly-competitive Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.
In the Preseason NAIA Top-10 Coaches' Poll for 2020, four teams from the WHAC are ranked, while two more are receiving votes. UM-Dearborn will play five games this season against teams in the preseason top-10 and three more against those receiving votes.
"Our goal is to earn a WHAC playoff berth this season," Watts said. "Every game in the WHAC is a war and anything is possible come playoff time."
The WHAC is a national power for men's lacrosse, with every team in the league showing up in the national top-10 poll last season, including the Wolverines. UM-Dearborn was right there at the end of many of its games a year ago, but eventually closed the season with a record of 1-11 overall and 1-7 in the WHAC. The lone win in 2019 came in thrilling fashion over then No. 6 Siena Heights University.
"Last year was an uphill battle with a depleted roster," Watts said. "With our largest and deepest recruiting class to date (13 new members of the team) we will be positioned to close out games and return to the style of play we want."
While the majority of the team is back from a year ago, UM-Dearborn will need to find a way to replace the production of Devon Callaghan, who graduated from the program as its all-time leading scorer.
"It's unlikely that any one single player will replace Callaghan, so we will be looking to spread around the production to several players and attack from every spot on the field," 14-year assistant coach Mike Wagner said. "We improved our depth, and will look for a more balanced offense, but just as productive."
Junior Adam Ranck is the leading scorer among returners from a year ago, as he closed the 2019 season with 26 goals and 12 assists. Senior Micah Rinke had a breakout season last year, with 18 goals and seven assists, while senior Ben Phillips transitioned well to attack, closing his junior season with 15 goals and 11 assists. Senior Justin Brodzik will look to add scoring power from the midfield as well after 13 goals in 2019, while sophomore Cameron Godin returns after five goals and four assists in his first season in the midfield.
Back to lead the Wolverine defense is senior Devin Smith, junior Cody White, and sophomore Omar Mahmud, while senior Liam Turner, junior Jon Chaffee, and sophomore Jay Rupnow will all compete for time in net for UM-Dearborn. Junior Chad Reynolds figures to be a top returning option at the face-off X for the Wolverines.
Several new faces will make an impact for UM-Dearborn, including freshman Nolan Kelley at attack. The addition of Connor Logan, Mason Loudermilk, Parker Steindl, Quest Bigelow and Joseph Atherall give UM-Dearborn the depth in the midfield the team has lacked in recent years. Colin Garner, Ryan Bendig, and Justin Houle figure to play key roles for the Wolverines at the LSM position. Nick Turner, Jake McDole and John Jasinski are set for their first seasons on defense for UM-Dearborn.
After the opener with Alma on Saturday, UM-Dearborn will host Kalamazoo College on Feb. 15 before traveling south for three games at No. 10 SCAD Savannah Feb. 29 through March 3 in Savannah, Ga. The Wolverines close the nonconference portion of the 2020 schedule with a home game against (RV) Columbia College on March 15, while the WHAC season opens at (RV) Siena Heights University on March 21.
UM-Dearborn will play all of its home games at Detroit Country Day, with the exception of a March 28 matchup with Taylor University, which will be held at the new Michigan Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Senior Day will take place against Concordia University at 2 pm on April 11, while the regular season closes with a road matchup at (RV) Lourdes.
The WHAC Postseason Tournament is scheduled for April 23-27 with the top six teams in the WHAC earning bids.