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Friday, August 21, 2015

UMass depth too much for Bucknell to contain

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

After Saturday’s win over then No. 14 Bucknell, it appears as though the task of stopping the No. 10 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team is more complex than simply trying to neutralize Will Manny.

UMass (2-0) received contributions across the board with seven different goal scorers and influences outside of the scorecard to help lift the Minutemen past the Bison, 11-9, at Garber Field.

In addition to Manny’s seven-point performance, Kyle Smith had a hat trick and an assist, Mike Fetterly scored a goal and dished out a trio of assists and Art Kell added a goal and pair of assists of his own to highlight a balanced offensive attack. Meanwhile, Anthony Biscardi was seen all over the field dishing out punishing hits to force turnovers that led to timely UMass scores.

UMass coach Greg Cannella understands that his team cannot lean on Manny’s strong start all season long and was pleased to see others step up with big contributions to the win.

“Everybody makes a big deal about what Manny did last week,” he said. “If you count on him to do that every week, it’s not [going to] happen so other people have to step up. Fortunately they did [on Saturday].”

Steve D’Amario, Colin Fleming and Grant Whiteway also netted goals in the contest to round out the scoring for the Minutemen on the afternoon. UMass’ evenly distributed attack left the Bucknell (0-2) defense without answers as the Minutemen continued to create quality scoring opportunities outside of its top line.

The Bison did not have the same fortune as their goal production came from just four starters. In fact, Bucknell did not even receive a shot on goal from its reserves.

Cannella knows how important it is for his team to receive contributions from other lines in every game instead of depending solely on the first unit.

“If you get all those guys going, that’s when you’re successful as a team,” he said.

The player with arguably the biggest influence on the outcome did not even contribute a goal. Biscardi harassed any Bison in his vicinity and delivered punishing blows to jar the ball loose that turned into extra possessions for the Minutemen.

With UMass holding a 1-0 lead, the senior lit up a Bucknell player attempting to make a clear. The play resulted in a turnover which started a charge by the Minutemen that was finished off by Smith to give UMass a 2-0 advantage.

Biscardi and the rest of the Minutemen made clearing a nightmare for the Bison, as Bucknell went just 11-for-16 on clear attempts.

“We want the reputation that it’s tough to play on Garber Field so we don’t want anybody coming in here thinking they can win,” said Biscardi, who added that the team wanted to test the Bison’s toughness.

Cannella felt the senior had a huge influence on the game and makes them a hard team to match up against. He also liked the reckless, free-flowing style Biscardi played with.

“He’s got a lot of pressure on him feeling that he’s [got to] carry the team. And we keep telling him, ‘Just let the game come to you … Just play within the flow of the game,’” said Cannella. “And [on Saturday] he did and he made those plays for us, which is great.”

Another senior who rose to the challenge was Fetterly, who had a career-high four points to lead the second midfield line.

Manny had high praise for Fetterly and his ability to distribute and make plays.

“He’s a very good feeder,” said Manny. “He’s able to finish the ball and he’s just very savvy with his play. [Fetterly’s] one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”

As the season progresses and UMass continues to compete against ranked opponents, the Minutemen will need consistent production outside of Manny and its top line. With a roster stocked with talent and athleticism, additional breakout performances may be in the future.

“We’ve got a lot of depth here,” said Biscardi. “A lot of kids can play so [if] you practice hard in practice, you’ll get on the field.”

Stephen Sellner can be reached at ssellner@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.

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