Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

A lot like 2006

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

This could be an interesting year for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team.

A type of year that UMass coach Greg Cannella, his players and Minutemen fans have been hoping for since that magical run in 2006.

Five years ago, the Minutemen reached the finals of the NCAA tournament, becoming only the second unseeded team in Division I lacrosse history to appear in a NCAA final. Behind a freshman goalkeeper, a stout defensive unit and a slew both underclassmen and upperclassmen scorers, the Minutemen advanced to the finals for the first time in program history, defeating No. 6 Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., and then executing an 11-10 overtime win over Hofstra to reach its first-ever NCAA semi-final.

But they weren’t done.

UMass went on to upset Maryland, the No.4 team in the country and two seed in the tournament and faced No.1 Virginia in the national championship game. While the Minutemen were routed by the Cavaliers, who went a perfect 17-0 that year, 15-7, Cannella and his team proved something that season: that a New England public university could compete and mightily defeat Ivy League schools as well as Mid-Atlantic ones in big games and on the road.

After a .500 season in 2007, the Minutemen were looking forward to getting back to the NCAA tournament in 2008. With players left over from the 2006 national title run in goalkeeper Doc Schneider, defenseman Diogo Godoi, midfielder Evan Blum and attackman Tim Balise combined with a promising incoming freshman class, it seemed as if Cannella’s team was poised for another run at a national championship title.

That all changed on Feb. 1, when eight players were suspended from the team for violating team rules stemming from an off-campus fight that sent three people to the hospital with facial injuries. Three players were arrested in the incident a few weeks before the Minutemen opened its season with a convincing 8-4 victory against the Pride. But the team fell way short of expectations, finishing 3-4 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and 5-9 overall, missing both the conference tournament and not even having a shot at earning a bid to the national tournament.

After a season filled with off-the-field controversy and disappointment on it, UMass rebounded in 2009 with Schneider leading the team in his senior season in net and Jim Connolly, one of the eight players who were suspended but was later reinstated to the team, having a career year on attack for the Minutemen. UMass reached the first round of the NCAA tournament but ultimately lost to Princeton, 10-7.

A change came for Cannella’s team in 2010. It would leave the ECAC and enter the Colonial Athletic Association, a conference filled with top-tier talent in teams like Delaware, Towson and Hofstra. This was a step in the right direction for the program because playing in a conference with these teams would garnish more national exposure. Point in case: the Minutemen are scheduled to play five games which will be aired on television this season. UMass finished 8-6 last season, but dropped four of its last five contests, falling in the semifinals to Towson in it’s first-ever CAA tournament appearance and not receiving a bid to the national championship.

So how is this year’s team like the 2006 team?

Every season, Cannella preaches leadership as the main catalyst for the success of his team.

The team in 2006 had it. The squad in 2011 does, too. 

The direction of the team won’t be difficult to find, with seniors Casey Rahn and Ryan Hantverk sharing captain duties along with redshirt junior goalkeeper Tim McCormack. McCormack showed a lot of resilience in his first season as a starter after Schneider, arguably the best goalkeeper in UMass history, graduated (he’s now an assistant). Add seniors Steve Zorkers, Brett Newgaard, Travis Tripucka, Mael Walkowiak and Mike Wilus, and the Minutemen have a team filled with experience, much like the 2006 team.

The 2006 team also had scorers. This season, UMass will rely on sophomore Will Manny, who won the CAA Rookie of the Year and had a team-high 27 goals and 18 assists. The Minutemen will also look to Art Kell, who returns from injury, consistent play from Anthony Biscardi and Hantverk and underclassmen like Kyle Smith and Colin Fleming. The defense in front of McCormack showed how potent it can be, forcing 20 turnovers in an 8-5 season-opening victory over Army on Saturday. The defense in 2006 caused 144 turnovers and had a clearing percentage of .835 on the season.

It isn’t a question of if or where the Minutemen are ranked in the Top 20 teams in Division I lacrosse, but how and when UMass will return to national spotlight like the 2006 team.

Ask 10 students on this campus the last time a UMass team was in a national championship final and I guarantee you that not one person will recall the Minutemen team that shocked the collegiate lacrosse world five seasons ago.

Perhaps this May, they will have a different answer.

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

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