DETROIT — 114 might be just a number to you, but to Titan junior Mike Birney (Plymouth, Mich. / Catholic Central) of the University of Detroit Mercy men’s lacrosse team and the lacrosse community, it represents something fast. Something quick. Something hard. And that 114 happens to be Birney’s shot that he has showcased in summer workouts, a number that if accomplished in a Major League Lacrosse All-Star competition would tie him for the world record.
“When I just started looking at it, I was at about 102 and just kept working on it and had a friend film it and I got to 110, 111, 113 and now 114,” said Birney. “I have worked a lot this summer on my game, but it is fun to just go out there and shoot it as hard as I can.”
The record was at 111 by the face of today’s lacrosse game, Paul Rabi, and recently soared to 114 this summer as Mike Sawyer of the Charlotte Hound broke the record at the MLL All-Star game. While both of those are done in front of crowds under set rules and pressure, it should not be ignored that Birney is still lighting up the radar gun.
“When you think that it’s possible to be mentioned with a guy like Paul Rabi, that is cool,” said Birney. “He is a guy we all look up to in this sport and who we all want to be.”
The fact that Birney continues to work and craft his game is scary news for the MAAC. As a sophomore, he really came into his zone as one of the best players in the conference earning Second Team All-MAAC leading Detroit with 31 goals and tying for the top spot with 40 points. While he came out of the gate fast with his first career hat trick at Ohio State in the season opener, it was his play down the stretch that cemented his status as one of the best scorers in the league.
He had seven multi-goal games in the last eight games with four in a win over Manhattan, three at Marquette and a pair against Canisius in a regular season finale victory that propelled UDM into the conference tournament. He then put his name in the national spotlight with three goals in the MAAC Semifinals – all in the second half – including the game winner with 1:25 left as Detroit upset top-seeded Marist. In the MAAC Championship, Birney netted a career-high five goals with three in the second half, including the game winner in overtime to send Detroit to its’ first-ever NCAA Tournament as he was named the MAAC’s Most Outstanding Player in the conference championship.
“I don’t think it really hit me until I was packing up my stuff in the dorms what we accomplished last season,” said Birney. “We started slow, but the way we ended it, winning a championship and giving Notre Dame a battle was amazing.”
For a guy who had the third most goals in school history and the most ever by a Titan midfielder, Birney still knows that in order for Detroit to defend its title, he needs to improve.
“I have worked a lot on both of my hands and on my accuracy,” said Birney. “I am able to work and train at my parent’s job in their training center, just playing wall ball and working by myself to keep in shape. My sister (Kylie Birney of the UDM women’s lacrosse team) and I have also done a lot of INSANITY workouts together to keep fit.”
The summer has not been just about trying to get his shot as fast as possible. Between working out and practicing, Birney is also holding down a summer job at a pool company and as a coach with Team Total. Working hard off the field is just par for the course for Birney as he was a member of the UDM Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and the MAAC’s All-Academic Team and Honor Roll.
“I can’t wait to get back to school and start working together as a team. We really came together last year and we have great chemistry and all know that we are going to have to work even harder now that we have our name out there,” added Birney.