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Friday, August 21, 2015

UMass men’s lax shifts focus to Albany

Zoe Mervine/Collegian

For the No. 9 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, there’s no rest for the weary.

After losing its first game of the season on Saturday, the Minutemen (3-1) are right back at it Tuesday when they travel to Albany (1-2) for a 3 p.m. game.

UMass is coming off a sloppy 9-8 overtime loss to Brown on Saturday afternoon, which saw the team commit a season-high 16 turnovers.

UMass coach Greg Cannella said his team has no choice but to prepare for the quick turnaround against the Great Danes and also said that in situations like these, it’s more important to be mentally prepared than anything else.

“So, in these midweek games, it’s the Tuesday games after Saturday game, the mental prep and the mental focus are more important than the actual physical (prep),” Cannella said, “because obviously you know we’ll have (Sunday) off and then Monday we have to go light and then you go play on Tuesday.

“So, it’s more of a mental struggle, mental battle, (and) fatigue battle with the guys.”

            Not helping with the fatigue issue is the fact that the Minutemen are still without the services of star senior attackman Will Manny, who broke his thumb in the first game of the season and hasn’t played since UMass’ upset victory over North Carolina. He is expected to miss up to a month.

The Minutemen are also still without senior midfielder and attackman Colin Fleming and junior defenseman James Fahey. Fleming missed the first game of the season with an ankle sprain and then reinjured the ankle against the Tar Heels. Fahey also has not played since the game against UNC.

That means UMass will have to rely on its youth and relatively inexperienced players to come through with a road win at Albany, including Matt Whippen, Andrew Sokol, Connor Mooney and Grant Whiteway.

But after the loss to the Bears, Cannella made it clear that playing without those three players was no excuse for the loss on Saturday, something that senior attackman Kyle Smith reiterated.

“Those guys are good players, they help, but we have a team of 40 guys, those players are good too,” Smith said on Saturday. “Those two guys aren’t our entire team. We have good players, and (Saturday) on offense we did not play well as a team. I’m glad we play on Tuesday.”

Winning Tuesday will be no easy task as UMass face one of the most potent offenses in the nation. The Great Danes have the third ranked scoring offense in the country, averaging 14.33 goals per game.

Their top offensive threat, Lyle Thompson, ranks first in the nation with his 7.67 points per game. He does most of his damage on assists, as he has compiled 16 in just three games, which also leads the nation. He also has seven goals and 23 total points.

Albany enters the game with a 1-2 record, but its one win was a 16-15 double-overtime victory over then-No. 13 Syracuse on the road. Since then, the Great Danes have dropped two straight, including a 20-19 high-scoring affair to Drexel on the road and a 15-8 loss at home against Yale last Saturday.

The Minutemen will have the advantage defensively on paper, as Albany goalie Blaze Riorden is allowing an alarming 16.22 goals per game and has a save percentage of just .425.

Meanwhile, Minuteman goalie Zachary Oliveri ranks ninth in the nation with his .595 save percentage. His goals-against-average is 8.54.

After the Brown loss, Smith said that his focus immediately shifted towards this game against the Great Danes.

“Once we’re done showering and stuff it’s on to Albany,” Smith said. “We’ve got them on Tuesday so you got two days of rest and I think that’s the biggest thing, just getting your rest, going to bed early.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at cameronm@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.

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