While students at the University of Massachusetts were on spring break, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was trying to reverse its recent struggles.
And that’s exactly what the Minutemen did with a pair of victories over No. 16 Lehigh and Hartford.
UMass defeated Hartford, 13-11, on Saturday on the road for its second-straight win after losing its previous four contests.
The Minutemen’s (5-4, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Conference) attack scored in double digits for the first time since their 12-11 win against North Carolina on Feb. 16. Leading the attack was Kyle Smith with six goals and Grant Whiteway with three goals and one assist.
The game was tied entering the fourth quarter after Hartford (3-4) managed to score three unanswered goals to close out the third quarter, but that would be the last time the Hawks scored.
UMass got the only two goals in the game’s final quarter on a pair of tallies by Smith to ice the game.
“It was a back-and-forth game; guys made plays and our seniors stepped up,” Minuteman coach Greg Cannella told UMass Athletics. “Kyle Smith (made) some really big plays throughout the game and then at the end of the game.”
Cannella was also very happy with the effort his team put forth. Smith added that the intensity was there as well.
“Well we fought the whole game and we knew it wasn’t gonna be easy,” Smith said in an interview with UMass Athletics. “I was pretty happy that we matched their intensity for the whole game and I think that’s why we won.”
Will Manny scored a goal and added two assists. His final assist came on Smith’s game-winning goal with three minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Zachary Oliveri led the UMass defense in goal with nine saves.
After a back-and-forth first half, the Minutemen took a 9-7 lead into the break. The Hawks opened up the scoring in the second half on a goal by Brad Hutton, but Smith put UMass back on top by three goals with a pair of scores. That’s when Hartford rallied to score three unanswered goals to tie the game.
The Hawks had a 4-3 advantage after the first quarter, but the Minutemen’s offense woke up in the second as they outscored Hartford, 6-3.
“Our attack scored. You know you need your attack to score in order to win any college lacrosse game,” Cannella told UMass Athletics. “So if they can produce that way every time out, then the team is gonna be much more successful in terms of scoring. Those guys are down there for a reason and tonight they did their job well.”
Manny, defense lead UMass past Lehigh
UMass began its perfect week on the road Wednesday with a 6-4 win over Lehigh.
Manny led the Minutemen in scoring with a hat trick in only his second game back after injuring his thumb.
“It’s good to get Willy (Manny) back and going,” Cannella told UMass Athletics. “He gained some confidence out there on the field. It was good to see him wrap around the goal righty and lefty and score the ball.”
His first goal came when the game was tied at 3-3 late in the second quarter. He then added what would be the eventual game-winning goal with six minutes, eight seconds remaining in the third quarter on an unassisted strike. After the Mountain Hawks (6-4) climbed back to within a goal, Manny gave UMass some breathing room with his third goal of the day with 5:03 remaining in the game.
“When I had my opportunities I was able to get above the goal and try to get the best shot off that I can and that’s what we were stressing about,” Manny told UMass Athletics, “finishing the ball when it matters and I was able to do that.”
The defense also turned in a strong performance for the Minutemen on Wednesday. They forced Lehigh to turn the ball over 19 times and held a team that is averaging 10.10 goals per game to only four on its home turf.
Oliveri came up with nine saves in net for UMass.
“Good individual effort, good team defense,” Cannella told UMass Athletics. “We got the loose balls. We got the balls up and out on our defensive end. Zach was really good in goal again, making the saves he needed to make.
“You can’t ask for more than they’ve given us over the last three weeks since the opening game.”
The Mountain Hawks came out of the gates quickly with goals by David DiMaria and Patrick Corbett to take a 2-0 lead.
But the Minutemen responded with goals by Smith and Dan Muller to tie the game at 2-2 with 14:18 remaining in the first half.
Alan Henderson gave Lehigh the lead back on an unassisted goal with 12:41 remaining in the second quarter, but once again UMass responded on a goal by Whiteway to tie the game at 3-3.
That’s when Manny took the game over.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.