The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team leads the NCAA in goals scored with 35 in victories over Saint John’s and Hartford, and have scored the most goals in their first two games since the 1990 season.
The No. 18 Minutemen hope to have that type of offensive production when they head to Ohio State to face the Buckeyes for the first time in program history Saturday afternoon.
“Every game on the schedule is a big game, we tell all our guys it’s another game in the season, but there’s some travel involved, we’re going to be playing inside for the first time since I can remember,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said.
The Minutemen have not played a game west of Pennsylvania since 2000, when UMass beat Butler, 12-9 on March 25.
“They’re home, and I’m sure they will be fired up and ready to go, and they’re comfortable playing indoors,” Cannella said.
OSU is coming off a 5-11 loss to No. 15 Bucknell on Saturday after opening their season with a 10-8 victory over Villanova on Feb. 13, opening 2010 as a new member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, UMass’ former conference.
UMass scored the most goals since 2002 in its 20-10 victory over the Hawks in its home opener last Saturday. Junior midfielder Ryan Hantverk led the way with a career-high four goals, while senior attackman Ryan Smith tallied the first three goals of his career, and senior midfielder Bobby Hayes had his second-straight game with a hat trick.
Even with his team’s ability to score as of late, Cannella knows that the Buckeyes cannot be taken lightly, and wants his players to continue being effective in their offensive zone.
“I try not to get too excited about it, you just hope those guys can be consistent in what they do and their approach,” Cannella said.
The Minutemen got off to a similar start last season, scoring a combined 43 goals in their first three games, with just one ending in defeat.
“It seems as though we are sharing the ball a bunch, which is great news, and we have some guys that can distribute,” Cannella said. “The more you can share the ball, the better off you are going to be.”
Sophomore attackman Art Kell, freshman midfielder Will Manny and Hayes have been instrumental in creating UMass’ offense, especially extra-man opportunities.
Manny leads the team with five assists on the year, and was named the Colonial Athletic Associations Rookie of the Week, while Kell has five goals and two assists.
The Minutemen scored six man-up goals against the Hawks, tying a mark set in 1999. The Buckeyes have allowed 3-of-5 man up goals against opponents so far this season. Even with the two victories, Cannella wants his team to prepare for the Buckeyes like any other opponent.
“Well, obviously you have to prepare to defend OSU the best you can,” Cannella said. “They’re a really good transition team as well, so you want to try to keep them out of transition as much as you can.”
OSU is led by Jeff Tundo, who has four goals and one assist on the year. Both Logan Schuss and James Green each have three goals and one assist. On the defensive front, the Buckeyes have one of the best defensemen in the ECAC in senior captain Scott Foreman, who is second on the team in ground balls with five.
“They’re a very good riding team, and very aggressive on the defensive end, so you have to prepare for all that stuff,” Cannella said. “We need to get our guys ready for really the kind of intensity they bring to the game, they play really hard.”
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.