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Special teams to play vital role for UMass against Drexel

Success in lacrosse isn’t always determined by a team’s ability to function in even-man situations.

While the No.9 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team excels on special teams offense, No. 13 Drexel is one of the toughest teams to beat on the penalty kill in the Colonial Athletic Association.

A win this weekend puts the Minutemen into a good position for good seeding in the conference tournament.

UMass (8-4, 2-2 CAA) boasts a conference-best 45-percent man-up scoring percentage, tallying 17 goals on the man-advantage.

Attackman Kyle Smith and midfielder Bobby Hayes account for nine of those goals.

Saturday against Georgetown, the Minutemen won, 13-12 but needed to score the final three goals of the game to do so.

“I thought we needed to be more athletic on the attack side,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said of the Minutemen’s win against Georgetown last Saturday.

“In starting D’Amario right of the bat, hopefully we’ll instill some confidence in him. We bumped up Christian Hain into the first group with Bobby Hayes and Ryan Hantverk and that’s a formidable group.”

In that game, the Minutemen scored on their only extra-man opportunity of the game and allowed the Hoyas two extra-man opportunities, one of which resulted in a goal.

The two penalties were an improvement, however, for a UMass team that averages four per game. The Dragons (9-4, 2-2) average just under five

Outside of goalkeeper Mark Manos (7.90 goals against average, .607 save percentage), defenseman Dana Wilbur (45 ground balls, 11 caused-turnovers) brings ball-hawking skills that can stifle numerous offensive runs put together by opponents.

As well as handling themselves on the defensive side of special teams, six different Dragons have multiple man-up goals on the season.

Conference Differential

Both UMass and Drexel have trouble defending against conference opponents. Each have 36 goals against them in conference play.

“It’s our first year [in the conference] and the two teams we’ve faced for the first time in conference, we’ve lost to,” Cannella said. “So we put the challenge [to break that trend] out to the guys this week.”

The Minutemen average 17 turnovers per-game against conference opponents but Tim McCormack’s .581 save-percentage in conference game is 20 points higher than his overall.

Another constant during conference play is the tandem of attackmen Will Manny and Anthony Biscardi.

Manny has most of the minutes previously held by sophomore Art Kell, whose season ended due to a leg injury as UMass began conference play. Since then, Manny has nine goals, six assists. He also leads the conference with 3.75 points per-game in conference games.

The only blemish to Manny’s conference numbers is his 16 turnovers.

Biscardi has seven goals, five assists, while starting in all four conference games this season.

Defenseman Diogo Godoi and Casey Rahn have led the UMass defense through conference play, amassing 14 caused-turnovers, 20 ground balls, second only to face off midfielder Greg Rushing, who leads the conference with 21 ground balls during CAA play.

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

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