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Minutemen drop CAA opener to Nittany Lions on Saturday

With the No. 10 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team down, 8-7, to Penn State on Saturday afternoon at Garber Field, senior captain Ryan Hantverk sprinted down the field.

With the clock winding down, Hantverk rocketed the ball straight at the cage. The net rippled, the crowd cheered – and the ball banged off the crossbar, giving the Nittany Lions the victory.

“I knew I had to get a shot on goal, I put everything I had into it, [but] it just hit the crossbar,” said Hantverk.

“It nicked the top of the crossbar, that’s why it didn’t come straight out, so you’re looking at three inches,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “Overall I’ll say the same thing. [I’m] disappointed, [but] not discouraged. The guys gave a really strong effort. Just a little bit of the execution wasn’t there for us.”

The Minutemen (5-2, 0-1 CAA) fell to the Nittany Lions (3-3, 1-0 CAA) on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of their Colonial Athletic Association season. UMass faced a tough goalkeeper in Austin Kaut, who notched 25 saves, an NCAA record for the 2011 season so far.

“He had a great day,” said Cannella. “Twenty-five saves, that’s a heck of a day, that’s an All-American type of performance. He’s made a lot of saves in every game and he was excellent today.”

Although Kaut was a wall in the cage, the Minutemen did provide a heavy amount of offense against a lackluster PSU defense that surrendered possession on 22 occasions.

This included a 3-1 shelling in the third quarter, with goals coming from Anthony Biscardi, Kyle Smith and Colin Fleming.

While UMass displayed good offense throughout the entire game, including junior Art Kell’s five points, it was the first quarter that proved to be the difference. After letting in three goals in the first quarter, the Minutemen held the Nittany Lions to one goal for the next two quarters.

Despite letting up another trio of goals in the fourth, the Maroon and White continued to hound the ball on the defensive front. The Minutemen held PSU to 27 shots, 11 less than UMass’ total.

“You’ve got to give [Kaut] credit, but at the same time we need to get better at shooting and get our shooting percentage up,” said Hantverk. “It’s frustrating when you take more shots than a team and score less than them at the end of the game. We’re still a confident group, we still know we can play [and] we still know we’re good.”

Two players that did sneak past the Minutemen defense were Kyle Vanthorf and Tom LaCrosse, who netted four and two goals, respectively. They were aided by Shane Sturgis (one goal), who continued to make runs up the field throughout the entire contest.

For UMass, sophomore Will Manny worked around the Nittany Lions’ defense for two assists on the day, adding to his total, which puts him at No. 11 in the nation.

Anthony Biscardi also had an impressive performance, as he served as a momentum-changer late in the game. Down a goal, Biscardi nailed the Nittany Lions’ Ryan Link, which not only knocked him to the ground for a little while, but allowed momentum to shift, as Smith nailed his goal to knot the score at five going into the final quarter.

“Anytime you can make a big hit or a big play and change momentum … you need those in games like this,” said Cannella. “We didn’t respond to that [play] well enough. We didn’t use that energy coming off of that.”

In the fourth, PSU scored two straight and then traded back-and-forth goals with the Minutemen. The final goal for UMass came from Biscardi with 56 seconds remaining, after trailing 8-6. Despite a late run by Hantverk, the Nittany Lions held on to win the CAA opener.

A positive for the Minutemen came from Anthony Toresco, who substituted for Greg Rushing on faceoffs due to Rushing’s recent illness. Toresco aided the Minutemen in winning 12-of-18 faceoffs.

“Anthony had a nice day,” said Cannella. “We’re happy that he was able to come through, win draws and be confident. I think it’s a confidence thing for Anthony, so we’re happy for him [and] proud of him.”

The loss comes on the heels of a 14-6 drubbing of Providence last Tuesday, which included hat tricks from both Hantverk and Kell.

Tied 2-2 midway through the first, the Minutemen scored five of the next six goals to take a 7-3 lead which they never surrendered.

Moving forward, UMass heads on the road for its next three games against Harvard, Saint Joseph’s and Towson as conference play continues. Four of the seven CAA teams make the postseason, which begins on May 4.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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