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No. 16 Minutemen set for Classic contest with No. 13 Hoyas Saturday

In the first non-conference game between the two teams, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team takes on Georgetown in the ESPNU Warrior Classic Saturday at 1 p.m.

It will be a nationally-televised game on ESPNU, ESPN’s college affiliate.

 The No.16 Minutemen (7-4, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) come into the weekend after dropping two-straight conference games, while the No.13 Hoyas (7-4, 3-1 Big East) enter the Classic having dropped a game on the road to Loyola.

This meeting of the teams is the latest installment in a 10-year series, all of which took place in the Eastern College Athletic Association Conference. The Hoyas hold a 7-3 advantage all-time against UMass, and won the last contest, a 10-7 victory at Garber Field on the Minutemen’s Senior Day last season.

UMass coach Greg Cannella appreciates the intensity of the games against Georgetown and eagerly awaits the chance to extend the series.

“Coach [Dave] Urick’s [done] an outstanding job, obviously, and he’s done a great job of bringing together athletes, as well as letting them play,” said Cannella. “We try to pride ourselves on the same style. It’s always been a great, competitive game. Let’s hope it’s the same way this weekend.”  

This season, attackman Will Manny leads the Minutemen with 22 goals and 14 assists while playing in all of UMass’ first 11 games. He has at least two points in every game this season, including a hat trick in the second half of the Minutemen’s last game against Delaware (6-6, 1-2 CAA).

Besides Manny, UMass also has three other players with at least 25 points this season.

Senior Bobby Hayes has a 13-game point streak intact, scoring 19 goals to go along with 12 assists during that stretch. One of his best games this season came against Sacred Heart, when he scored his first career hat trick in a four-goal effort, with three of the four scores coming in man-up opportunities.

Hayes’ four man-up goals this season are second only to man-up specialist Kyle Smith’s five.

The UMass defense ranks ninth in the nation with 10 caused-turnovers per game and the Minutemen have multiple defensemen responsible for such a ranking. Redshirt senior Diogo Godoi leads the defense with his physical and instinctual play. Godoi has 19 turnovers to go along with 22 ground balls.

Godoi also proved this season that he can make plays on offense when needed, scoring his first career goal against then-No.6 Hofstra.

Alongside Godoi is sophomore Tom Celentani, who brings consistent contributions in his first full season as a starter. Celentani leads UMass with 21 caused-turnovers – which ranks 11th in the NCAA in caused-turnovers (1.91 per-game) – and also has 26 ground balls this season.

The Minutemen also have strength in face-offs as well. Sophomore Greg Rushing’s 109 faceoff wins put him at 12th in the nation in that category. His team-leading 52 ground balls give him 4.73 per-game, good for 20th in the NCAA.

The Minutemen face a balanced offensive team that excels on the defensive side of the ball in GU.

The Hoyas have midfielder Scott Kocis, who made UMass pay for three goals and one assist in the Hoyas’ eventual win in the last meeting between the two teams.

Leading the attackman position is freshman Travis Comeau, who leads Georgetown with 20 goals, two assists.

Duxbury, Mass. native Chris Nixon leads the defense with 23 caused turnovers as well as 36 ground balls.

Though the Minutemen withheld Nixon from the stat sheet last season, Cannella feels that defense, as well as other strengths, is one of the many factors UMass must pay careful attention to against the Hoyas.

“You have to handle their defensive pressure,” Cannella said. “You’ve [also] got to win draws, handle the ball on offense, as well as defend the [numerous] guys that they have offensively.”

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@student.umass.edu.

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