The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s offense exploded, registering 13 first-half goals in a 20-10 victory over visiting team Hartford in its home opener on Saturday.
“The best part today is that we came ready to play right from the first whistle,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “We’ll take 20 goals any day.”
On a sunny day at Garber Field, the No. 17 Minutemen (2-0) ran out to an early 5-0 lead en route to a 13-7 halftime lead. Their first half surge of 13 goals – 20 total goals in the game – are their most since March 4, 2002 when they defeated Rutgers, 21-9.
An Anthony Biscardi steal two minutes into the first quarter led to the first goal of the game, an unassisted shot by midfielder Ryan Hantverk. One minute later, attacker Ryan Smith found the net in back-to-back attempts, 14 seconds apart, to give UMass a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes and 37 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Following a Hartford timeout, the Minutemen pegged four shots on net until midfielder Bobby Hayes put one past the Hawk goalkeeper off of a skillful catch and a cross-cage pass by Biscardi. Then, attacker Art Kell controlled a ground ball and landed an unassisted goal to give UMass a 5-0 lead 7:34 into the contest.
The scoring spurt was sudden, and allowed the Minutemen to play composed.
“You don’t predict it,” Cannella said. “Our guys [played] a little more relaxed. Fortunately, we kept scoring.”
The Hawks came to life offensively with just under five minutes left, benefitting from a cross-checking penalty by the Minutemen’s Will Jeffery. Their first point came with a man-up goal at 4:34 by Jared Franze by way of a Justin Bearse feed.
Bearse gave Hartford its second goal 42 seconds later, when midfielder Martin Bowes slung a pass behind net to attacker Ryan Compitello, who swiftly relayed it near-post to an awaiting Bearse for the finish.
UMass responded with three unanswered goals to close out the first quarter and take an 8-2 lead.
The scoring maintained a break-neck pace in the second quarter with both teams posting five goals. Five different Minutemen added goals in the period, including Hantverk who tallied a hat trick at 8:45 with a man-up.
Hantverk (4 goals, 2 assists) was one of five Minutemen who earned multiple goals on the afternoon (Hayes, 3 goals; Smith, 3 goals; Kell, 2 goals; Smith, 2 goals).
Midfielder Franze also recorded a hat trick in the first half for Hartford, as Brease, Bowes and attacker Aidan Genik contributed goals to keep the Hawks within striking distance.
Cannella expressed displeasure with his team’s lackluster defense during the opening 30 minutes.
“We played a little choppy,” he said. “If it was tighter early, it was a different game. The guys clamped down in the second half, played better.”
After the break, UMass rallied on the defensive end, hampering the Hawks by forcing 12 turnovers and converting on 8-of-9 clear attempts while holding them to three goals.
Cannella would like to see his team play that way for four quarters.
“Hopefully, we can play a little more consistent between the first whistle and the last whistle,” he said.
Both teams play next on Saturday, when the Hawks host Delaware in their home opener and the Minutemen travel to Ohio State to take on the Buckeyes.
UMass converted on 6-of-9 extra-man opportunities on the day, tying a school record for man-up goals, accomplished twice before … Hartford goalie Scott Bement made 10 saves in three quarters of play … Jared Franze (4 goals) and Justin Bearse (2 goals, 2 assists) both led the scoring for the Hawks who were outshot 41-30 … Hartford managed to win the face-off margin winning 18-of-33, but were out-scooped on ground balls, 38-23, including 25-12 in the first half …
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.