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May 18, 2016

After week off, UMass hopes to keep streak alive

A week off in the beginning of a season could help a team rest and mentally prepare for the rest of their campaign.

For the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, they hope their time off benefits them when they take on Yale Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.

“We were fired up to play a game, and obviously they were a little disappointed, so it took us about a day to get over it, and now we’re in our prep for Yale, and we’re working hard at it,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said.

The No. 12 Minutemen (2-0, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Conference) were supposed to play Ohio State last Saturday, but could not travel due to weather conditions, and the game got postponed.

With the week off, the team was able to practice Friday and Saturday, including this week while scouting the Bulldogs, who defeated Holy Cross, 14-7, in their season opener on Saturday.

“Our leadership, with the seniors and our captains has kept our guys focused pretty well.”

Senior midfielder and captain Bobby Hayes is first on the team in goals with seven, while the Minutemen are second in the nation in goals per game with 17.5. The team has scored 15 and 20 goals respectively in their first two games, both victories over Sacred Heart and Hartford. The 20 goals performance against the Hawks was the most goals scored by a UMass team since the 2002 season.

Along with Hayes, midfielders Ryan Hantverk (six goals, three assists) and Anthony Biscardi (four goals, four assists) have helped a young offensive attack generate goals so far this season.

The attacking unit has also been impressive with Art Kell (five goals, two assists), Kyle Smith (two goals, three assists), Ryan Liebel (three goals) and Ryan Smith (three goals) continuing to score effectively.

Freshman midfielder Will Manny, who leads the team in assists with five, ranks 11th in the NCAA with a 2.5 assists per game average.

The contest will be UMass’ first game under the lights in six seasons, with the last game resulting in a 16-4 win over Manhattan on April 9, 2004 at Garber Field.

This will also be the Minutemen’s first road night game since 2002 at Syracuse, which ended in a 18-10 loss for UMass.

The Minutemen hold a 18-6 all-time lead over the Bulldogs, who traveled to Amherst last year and were defeated by then 20th-ranked UMass, 18-6, but have won two of the last three meetings.

Jim Connolly had a career-high seven goals for the Minutemen, while Tim Balise added four, and goalkeeper Doc Schneider made 14 saves in the victory.

The Bulldogs are led by the attackmen brothers Brendan and Matt Gibson, who scored three goals and four goals and two assists respectively in the victory over Crusaders.

“The Gibson brothers are outstanding players, looking for each other constantly, great finishers, great ball handlers and they’re well balanced,” Cannella said.

“They have two strong midfield groups; so again, they probably have more experience on the offensive end then the defensive end.”

Along with the Gibson brothers, the Bulldogs are led by Brian Douglass, who scored three goals in the victory over HC.

“[They’re] very athletic, both sides of the ball, [they’re] very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, and very aggressive in transition,” Cannella said. “They push transition coming from their poles and their short stick, D-middies, down to their attack.”

Freshman midfielder Colin Fleming, who has played in just one game this season due to a shoulder injury, could return to the Minutemen lineup against the Bulldogs with a week off to rest.

“This allows him to get back into the mix a little bit for us,” Cannella said.

“We’ve only played two games, but we’ve been going for six weeks, so our legs were getting tired, so you get some time off. But mentally, it’s tough to play a bunch of games in a row which we have coming up so hopefully, that time off will help us prepare mentally as well.”

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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