The No. 9 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s recent slide continued Saturday with a 7-4 loss at Bucknell.
The loss was the third in a row for the Minutemen.
Saturday’s game was a defensive battle throughout. And UMass (3-3) appeared to have the able as it held the Bison (4-1) scoreless until there was just 9 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“They played very well. I mean they shut out a team for 37 minutes or so – in Division I college lacrosse that’s a pretty good job,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said of his defense’s performance on Saturday. “You know (it was) a combination of really good communication, good preparation and good goalie play. You know you’ve got to be happy with that. You hope it can be consistent.”
However, it wasn’t the defense that was the issue for the Minutemen. The offense could only muster a season-low four goals, which is much less than the double-digit goal plateau that Cannella has consistently said his team needs to reach in order to win lacrosse games.
“You have to score in double digits if you expect to win college lacrosse games at this level and if you don’t you’re not gonna regardless of how well your defense plays,” he said.
The Minutemen’s offense did not capitalize on the shutout their defense provided them early on and only netting two goals in the first half for a 2-0 lead at the break.
That’s when Bucknell’s offense came alive.
The Bison outscored UMass 7-2 in the final 30 minutes, a result of poor offensive execution throughout.
“If you look at the stats we shot poorly,” Cannella said. “We shot 4-for-25 and 16 percent. Our attack group shot 3-for-19 and 15 percent. So if you’re not gonna get a lot of shots and you shoot poorly, then we had great opportunities in this game that we didn’t finish. So you should be finishing in the 35 to 40 percent range if you want to win these games.”
Trailing 2-0 after the break, the Bison rattled off three-straight goals to take its first the lead of the game.
Thomas Flibotte, who finished with three goals on the day, scored the first two goals during that stretch and then Chase Bailey gave Bucknell its first lead with 5:49 remaining in the third.
Kyle Smith answered for UMass with his second of three goals on the day and tied the game back up with 2:31 remaining in the third.
But the Bison dominated play in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Minutemen 4-1 in the frame.
Sean Doyle scored the first two Bucknell goals of the fourth.
Smith got UMass back to within one with 8:33 remaining, but the Bison pulled away for good on goals by Ryan Joseph and Flibotte.
Neither team could get on the scoreboard through the first quarter, but Andrew Sokol broke the scoreless drought with 13:18 remaining in the second quarter. Smith then added his first of three goals to make it 2-0.
Connor Mooney led UMass in the assist category with two on the day. Grant Whiteway and Bobby Tyler each had one.
Defensively, each team scooped up 28 ground balls and forced 14 turnovers. Goalkeeper Zachary Oliveri came up with 13 saves.
James Fahey returned from an undisclosed injury for UMass on Saturday, but its two other injured players, Will Manny and Colin Fleming, did not play.
Saturday’s game was the third in a week for the Minutemen, but now they will have a week to prepare for their next game and first Colonial Athletic Association conference opponent – No. 13 Penn State – which they will host next Saturday at noon.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @ Cam_McDonough.