Massachusetts men’s lacrosse coach Greg Cannella warned his team that the St. Joseph’s team they would see on Saturday would not be the same one that they beat 15-3 last season.
Apparently his players didn’t get the message.
The Minutemen’s two-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday with a 7-6 loss to the Hawks at Finnesey Field as UMass remains winless in Colonial Athletic Association play this season.
“We got beat by a team that deserved it more than us, who wanted it more than us and I think we as a group underestimated them,” Cannella said. “It’s very disappointing on my end, I’m sure on the players’ end as well.”
The teams traded goals throughout the first half, but the Minutemen (5-5, 0-2 CAA) pulled ahead, 5-4, with 12 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter on Will Manny’s 99th career goal.
However, St. Joe’s (5-6, 1-2 CAA) responded with three straight goals in the final 4:17 of the third, including a backbreaker on Michael Dougherty’s second goal of the game with two seconds left in the frame to give the Hawks a 7-5 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Matt Whippen cut the deficit back to one with 8:43 to play on his second tally of the day on a feed by Manny. But UMass was overwhelmed by St. Joe’s zone defense and couldn’t get the equalizer.
“They zoned us the entire game,” Cannella said. “Every possession we got zoned … we haven’t been very good against the zone.”
It was the third time this season the Minutemen faced a zone defense and the third time the offense has struggled against it. They were also zoned in losses to Brown and Penn State, but Cannella felt they actually had better scoring opportunities against the Hawks.
“We probably had more good opportunities (Saturday) then we had in those last two games maybe combined,” Cannella said. “We couldn’t finish so obviously we have to try to get better there.
“We were not good, we were very tentative and when we got the opportunities we couldn’t score.”
Grant Whiteway opened the scoring with 9:44 remaining in the first quarter. But Dougherty responded 42 seconds later with the equalizer.
With St. Joe’s leading 2-1, UMass came back furiously with goals by Whippen and Ryan Izzo in the final 43 seconds of the quarter to take a 3-2 lead.
Izzo then put the Minutemen ahead 4-3 with 9:05 remaining in the second. The sophomore used his speed to rush down field before firing one past Dustin Keen (13 saves).
However, the Hawks responded yet again and tied the score at 4 apiece on a goal by Johnny Simanski with 57 seconds left in the half.
“It seemed like the difference from the first whistle to the last was when they had good opportunities, they took advantage of them. When we did, we did not,” Cannella said.
The defense was once again strong for UMass, holding St. Joe’s scoreless in a pivotal fourth quarter. But it’s the offense that’s at the forefront of the issue.
The Minutemen have scored in double-digits just three times this season and only once in the last eight games. And with just four games left in the regular season and UMass currently on the outside looking in at the CAA playoffs, the offense will need a major turnaround to keep its tournament hopes alive.
“I think it’s sort of a reoccurring theme here, and it better be a wake-up call for the seniors and the offense,” Cannella said. “The defense has performed very well. We let up seven goals in a Division I game. We have to score in double-digits if we want any chance of winning. That’s how I look at it, that’s how you should be looking at it, that’s how our guys should be looking at it, and you have to be aggressive as you can be to get to that number.
Nick Canelas can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.