Defense played a huge part for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team again, as the No. 9 Minutemen remained undefeated in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 10-8 victory over Penn State Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, senior All-American defenseman Diogo Godoi intercepted a pass, with the Nittany Lions (1-8, 0-1 CAA) trying to tie the game at nine, generating a goal-scoring opportunity that put the game away.
“Sometimes it just goes your way, and luckily, I got my stick up, and the ball went in it, and we were able to clear the ball and win the game. So it was a good play,” Godoi said.
Freshman Will Manny, who had a hat trick, tallied his third goal of the game on a pass from sophomore midfielder Anthony Biscardi, putting the game away with 38 seconds remaining, propelling UMass to a 7-2 record and a 2-0 conference record.
“We knew Penn State was an excellent team, we’ve lost a bunch of one goal, two goal games. We knew it was going to be a battle going down here,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said.
The Minutemen lost to Yale and No. 14 Harvard by one goal margins earlier this season, but have since rattled off four consecutive wins.
“I thought they had more legs then we did, coming off a short week for them, but again, our guys persevered, we pushed it to 5-2 in the second quarter, and every time we pushed it up a couple goals, they came back on us, which is a sign of a good team,” Cannella said.
The Nittany Lions fell to Bucknell 11-9 on Tuesday, and have just one win so far in 2010 – 13-11 against St. John’s, a team the Minutemen scrimmaged this season.
Godoi and senior long stick midfielder Will Jeffery kept PSU sophomore attackman and Nittany Lions’ leading scorer Matthew Mackrides without a point on the afternoon, as Godoi had two groundballs and four caused turnovers.
“He’s an excellent player who is very fast, so today I barley threw any checks, it was ore of a footrace with him,” Godoi said.
Mackrides leads the Nittany Lions with 25 goals and 30 points, but was kept at bay by the Minutemen defense.
“Obviously, you try to motivate your players, and every time, Diogo knows who he’s playing against, he gets up for it,” Cannella said. “But it was a team effort today, Tim McCormack played really well in the goal, you watch our D-middies out there, they were exhausted, they played their hearts out. Casey Rahn and Will Jeffery did as well.”
McCormack made 12 stops for the Minutemen, while PSU goalkeeper Dave Baker also made 12.
UMass moved the ball around on the offensive zone, as all 10 scores were assisted, with junior midfielder Ryan Hantverk having three assists while Biscardi had a goal and two helpers.
“We felt like 1-on-1, they could challenge us, and they did, so we told our guys to keep playing off the ball, find the open man and be unselfish, push the ball behind and things worked out for us,” Cannella said.
Senior midfielder Bobby Hayes had two goals, while Steve D’Amario, Ryan Liebel, Christian Hain and Ryan Smith all found the back of the net for the Minutemen.
“It was a tough day for us, [the] first time we have played in heat like this. [You] can’t say enough about Tom Celentani at the end getting a ground ball, all those guys really contributed, so it was a team win, specifically, we played really good team defense, and hopefully we can continue that,” Cannella said.
While Cannella is happy with his team’s success as of late, he knows the Minutemen will have a target on their back, especially when they take on Towson on Saturday at Garber Field, UMass’ Senior Day.
The Tigers upset Delaware in their CAA opener this weekend, and hope to end the Minutemen’s four-game winning streak.
“It’s better than being 0-2 and 2-7, so we’ll take it, but we have a long way to go here, and I think our guys know that,” Cannella said.
David Brinch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.