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Minutemen to play in Catamount Classic Lacrosse for a cure

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

The University of Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team will be taking the field to battle a different kind of opponent this weekend.

This Sunday, the Minutemen will be one of 16 New England-area lacrosse teams – eight men’s teams, eight women’s teams – to take part in the “2011 Catamount Classic – Lacrosse for a Cure,” an annual event at Thayer Academy in Milton, Mass. that raises money to support genitourinary and women’s cancer research and care at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“I’m very honored to be a part of it,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “I’ve been a part of it since the start of it. They raise a ton of money for cancer research, and it’s awesome for our guys to be able to be a part of that and help contribute to that cause.”

This year’s Classic will be the fourth annual tournament of its type, dating back to its inception in 2008, when Ryan Curtis, the men’s lacrosse coach at the University of Vermont, and his wife Kelly got it started.

Curtis, who previously lived in Boston before taking the coaching job at UVM, worked at the Dana-Farber CancerInstitute in Boston in which he studied genitourinary oncology. Combining his love for lacrosse with his passion for cancer research, Curtis and his wife have found a way to raise awareness to a widespread issue.

Together, the couple has raised over $100,000 in their three years running the event – including $36,000 to support testicular cancer research during last year’s event – and has made the Catamount Classic one of the premier fall lacrosse events in New England, with the collection of some of the area’s finest teams facing off in a tournament.

“I think it started because he had an athlete who had testicular cancer,” said Cannella regarding how Curtis was inspired to start this event. “And he wanted to start a tournament that would fundraise [for] his medical bills, but I think it turned into something much greater.”

And while Cannella and his Minutemen undoubtedly support the cause, he also sees the event as an opportunity to get some early work started on his team’s chemistry and on how the team looks for the upcoming spring season.

“We only typically have about one or two contests in the fall, so they’ll be pretty fired up for this,” said Cannella. “And obviously for the cause, it’s fantastic.”

“There’s nothing friendly about these types of games,” added Cannella. “In the fall, we’re trying to figure out who on our roster can play for us in the spring. We try to figure out midfield lines, who can play for us defensively and who can play for us on attack, so you prepare, it’s like a secondary season.”

According to the event’s website, the men’s teams will begin playing at 1 p.m., and each team will play two full-length games, with 15-minute running quarters, while the women’s teams will play three games with 20-minute running halves starting at 8 a.m.

The participating men’s teams include, in addition to UMass, UVM, Bryant University, Providence College, College of Holy Cross, Brown University, University of Hartford and Sacred Heart University. In the women’s division, the teams include UVM, University of Connecticut, Bryant University, Siena College, College of Holy Cross, Brown University, Boston University and Iona College.

All proceeds from this year’s event will support both genitourinary and women’s cancers research and care, according to a press release.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at shewitt@student.umass.edu.

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