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Minutemen defeat Sacred Heart, 15-12

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team escaped a third-quarter rally by Sacred Heart in the first game of the 2010 season and won, 15-12, in exciting fashion on Saturday.

“Our guys persevered,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said about the game. “They tied it up, and it’s good to see how our guys handled the adversity in that game. Fortunately for us, we played well at the end and pulled it out.”

Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on goalie Tim McCormack and defenseman Diogo Godoi with 10 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter tested Cannella’s young team, and allowed Sacred Heart to stay in the game. Freshman goalie Steve Mahle was thrust into the UMass net cold, and the Pioneers capitalized on the man-up opportunities tying the score at 11 with 10:15 remaining.

“I think we were a little scared, including myself,” said Cannella. “Sacred Heart at home had a lot of momentum at that point in the game. We called a timeout, brought our guys in and said settle down, we have to stay out of the penalty box, and handle the ball.”

Then the Minutemen offense fired back.

Goals from Art Kell and Ryan Liebel put UMass up 13-11, until Sacred Heart’s Matt Ferrino brought the score within one with 5:58 to play. UMass freshman Will Manny stepped up just over a minute later and buried a goal off an Anthony Biscardi pass to secure the win for the Minutemen.

“It was a big goal for Willy and for the team,” said Cannella about the freshman’s first goal. “In a spot like that, you have a freshman take that shot and finish it for you, it’s a big play. It is great for his confidence, but we certainly needed it.”

Biscardi had two goals and two assists on five shots in the game, but was not UMass’ best offensive weapon. Senior captain Bobby Hayes was the leading scorer for the Minutemen with four goals on eight shots.

Hayes and the UMass offense was a big concern coming into the first game of the season, but responded by scoring 15 goals and putting up 55 shots in the contest.

Sacred Heart on the other hand was forced to compete with UMass’ production with fewer opportunities. The Pioneers were held to 32 shots in the game, but still put up 13 goals against McCormack and Mahle.

McCormack was given the start in the cage and had a solid first half. But, the redshirt sophomore slumped in the third quarter, allowing the Pioneers to go on a 4-0 run and bring the game within reach.

The Pioneers were down 9-4 at halftime but came alive in the second half. Timmy Katz and Ferrino led the Sacred Heart attack with a hat-trick apiece against the Minuteman defense.

UMass’ Kell had his first career hat-trick in the game with three goals and one assist on five shots on goal. In their first career starts Ryan Hantverk and Liebel both had two goals, and Hantverk added an assist.

On defense the Minutemen started Godoi, Greg Anderson and Tom Celentani. As a team the Pioneers turned the ball over 18 times to UMass’ nine. UMass also won the groundball war, nabbing 39 groundballs in the game.

Anthony Toresco and Greg Rushing split the faceoff duties for UMass and corralled 18-of-31 restarts at midfield.

UMass improves to 30-26-1 in season openers as a program, but more importantly is now 1-0 on the 2010 season.

“Any time you open up a season you want to start out 1-0,” Cannella said. “We faced a lot of adversity in the second half.”

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

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