The last time the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team hosted Hartford, the Minutemen earned their first victory of the 2004 season.
With that already accomplished in a 15-12 victory at Sacred Heart last Friday, UMass hopes to earn its first home win of the 2010 season when the Hawks soar into Garber Field Saturday at 1 p.m.
Though the Minutemen have already played a closely-contested game this season and Hartford has yet to touch the field, UMass coach Greg Canella isn’t convinced his team has an advantage.
“The experience in playing in a tight game against Sacred Heart maybe that plays in our favor,” Canella said. “Watching tape on Hartford, you get personnel stuff but you don’t see offenses and defenses because they haven’t played yet. You can look at it both ways.”
The No. 17 Minutemen have defeated the Hawks all six times they have played each other, dating back to 1996.
UMass beat the Hawks 13-7 back on March 2 for the first win of its 2004 campaign, as the then-No. 11 Minutemen scored eight goals to open up a tied game in the second half.
After its five goal lead disappeared in the beginning of the fourth quarter, UMass got back on track against SHU on Friday, scoring five of the game’s final four games to hold on for the win.
Senior midfielder Bobby Hayes scored a career-high four goals, while five different UMass players registered multi-goal games for career bests.
Sophomore attackman Art Kell notched a hat trick and had an assist, while junior midfielders Ryan Hantverk and Ryan Liebel, along with sophomore Anthony Biscardi, added two goals each.
The Hawks are coming off two scrimmages, and will open their season on the road in the non-conference matchup Saturday. The Hawks were picked to finish fourth in the America East after finishing just 2-11 in 2009, including 0-6 on the road, while going 0-13 in 2008.
Like the Minutemen, the Hawks are a very young team with 15 freshmen and one just two seniors, but have a talented sophomore group in goalkeeper Scott Bement. Bement was named AE Rookie of the Year and to the All-Rookie team last season after leading the conference in save percentage (.577).
“He’s an excellent goalie, probably because he’s an excellent athlete,” Canella said of Bement. “He has very quick hands and is explosive in goal as well. Anytime you have an athlete in there, similar to a hockey goalie, who can stretch for saves, they can follow shooters. He presents a ton of problems and they expect him to be an All-American this year, I won’t be surprised if he is.”
Along with Bement, the Hawks boast a young attacking unit in sophomores Aidan Genik, Ryan Compitello and Carter Bender, all of which were named to the AE All-Rookie Team while scoring 62 goals and adding 34 assists.
“They’re very young, but all their midfielders are back, they have a sophomore goalie, and an experienced defense,” Canella said. “They’re a hungry team and they will be ready to go.”
The Hawks are led by senior captain attackman Justin Bearse, who finished 2009 with 12 goals and 10 assists, while Liebel’s younger brother Ben is a freshman defenseman for the Hawks as well.
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.