Scrolling Headlines:

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 23, 2017

SGA president selects new vice president -

January 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball blows 15 point fourth quarter lead, loses in double overtime to George Washington -

January 23, 2017

UMass club hockey falls to NYU 3-2 in first game back from vacation -

January 23, 2017

Cyr: Expectations for UMass men’s basketball remain consistent throughout 2016-17 season -

January 23, 2017

The death penalty is not the answer -

January 23, 2017

Donald Trump is gutting journalism with his Twitter -

January 23, 2017

Winter break’s most overlooked releases -

January 23, 2017

Hardly anything in ‘Rogue One’ scores a direct hit -

January 23, 2017

Nineteen turnovers sink UMass men’s basketball in loss to Fordham Saturday -

January 21, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls to Fordham behind strong defensive effort by the Rams -

January 21, 2017

UMass hockey can’t take advantage of strong start in 6-1 loss to Boston College -

January 21, 2017

High-powered Eagles soar past UMass -

January 21, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

New conference for UMass in 2010

Last year, a strong core of seniors carried the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

This year’s team however, knows that it,  again, has something to prove.  

“The senior group every year has a lot to prove,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “They have to get out there and play, and prove that this team is an NCAA caliber team, because that is what we want to be. They’ve got a tough chore ahead of them, but they’ve been able to handle what’s come to them so far.”

The team has a very different look since it last took the field, and also will be playing in a different conference. UMass was realigned from the Eastern College Athletic Conference into the Colonial Athletic Conference during the off-season, and will face a swath of new opponents for the first time in a number of years.

“The change of conference is great,” said Cannella. “One of the best things that comes with the CAA is the conference championship. At the end of the year, regardless if you’re first, second, third or fourth, you have a chance at getting the automatic qualification, at winning the conference and getting into the tournament that way.”

The new conference consists of Drexel, Hofstra, Towson, Penn State and Delaware. UMass has had success against programs like the Pride and UD in the past, but is not as familiar with its new conference as it was with the ECAC.

“The difficulties are that we don’t know a lot about those teams,” said Cannella. “So we have to learn a lot about them this year. Certainly we will learn more and more as we go on, and we’ll get to know the teams and what they like to do and how they play.”

The conference schedule begins Mar. 27 against Hofstra, and is only interrupted by a game between UMass and Georgetown at UConn on April 24. The game against the Hoyas will be part of the ESPNU Warrior Classic, and is the only nationally televised game on the Minutemen’s schedule.

Three out of the five conference games are away, and more importantly are in places that UMass is not used to traveling.

“We’re going to travel to different places, and anytime there is a change and people feel that change, it creates a lot of anxiety for people who have never been there before,” said Canella. “They like familiar settings, they like familiarity, but in my opinion, we’re leaving one great conference and going to another great one.”

With the graduation of Doc Schneider, Tim Balise, Jim Connolly and others, the Minutemen also have a lot of leadership to replace. The Minutemen are bottom-heavy in terms of class, and consist of six seniors, nine juniors, 12 sophomores and 13 freshmen.

Captains Bobby Hayes, Diogo Godoi and Ryan Smith will try to bring the team together as leaders, but will have help from the coaching staff.

“We create a leadership council,” said Cannella of the process. “Every senior is on that, along with select juniors, sophomores and freshmen, and we try and bring those guys together and foster a good relationship with the team and the coaches. We make sure people are connected from the seniors all the way down to the freshman.”

One thing that UMass does have working for it is where that experience is located. The team returns Godoi, Greg Anderson and Travis Tripucka on defense, as well as defensive-minded midfielders Steve Zorkers, Ryan Liebel and Casey Rahn.

UMass’ success last year brings high expectations for this year’s group. Even though they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Princeton, the Minutemen are working hard to do better than last year.

“I think they know what we’re working on and what we’re pushing them towards,” Cannella said.

Cannella, who is entering his sixteenth year as UMass’ head coach, has plenty of accolades on his fact sheet. Cannella holds a 131-84 record in his time in Amherst, and points to the success his teams have had as his motivation.

“You watch them mature, fight, run, lift, practice, cry and laugh, and all those things to me sitting behind this desk,  that’s the least fun of it. The best part of it is to be out there on that field and get excited about playing lacrosse.”

Neil Carroll can be reached at nacarroll@student.umass.edu.

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