UMass faces do-or-die situation Friday on Senior Night
Brett Tobin gets goosebumps every time he steps onto Garber Field.
Being a senior on the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, he’s done it countless times, but the feeling is always just as special.
On Friday at 7 p.m., Tobin and his seven classmates will walk out to Garber one last time to be honored on Senior Night before the Minutemen (6-7, 1-4 Colonial Athletic Association) face Delaware to close out the regular season with a shot at making the CAA Tournament on the line.
Tobin couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s gonna be pretty awesome,” he said. “Knowing it’s the last time I’m stepping out there, being a night game, it’s gonna be something pretty special as it is every time.”
UMass is currently fifth in the conference standings following its 9-8 win over Hofstra last weekend and will need some help in order to move into the fourth and final CAA Tournament spot. The Minutemen not only need a win over the Blue Hens (5-9, 1-4 CAA) on Friday, but they also need losses from both the Pride and Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night against Penn State and Towson, respectively – all very realistic scenarios.
With that in mind, UMass’ sense of urgency is high. And it’s planning to take care of what it ultimately can control in order to extend its season and the careers of the seniors.
“I’m not ready for it to end, I don’t think any of the seniors are,” Jake Smith said. “We want to do everything in our power to give ourselves a chance to keep playing and at this point the only thing in our control is the game on Friday night, so we’re doing everything we can.”
While the stakes may be higher, the Minutemen’s approach and preparation won’t change a bit.
“You can’t say this game is more important than last week or the week before,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “If you’re gonna prepare for teams the way that we want to then you’re preparing yourself to get ready to play. And yes, our seniors and our upperclassmen have to play well.”
But in order to make it happen, the Minutemen will need to overcome a formidable Delaware squad that features the third-best offense in the CAA, led by senior midfielder Nick Diachenko, who has 33 goals and 37 points for the season.
Diachenko is fifth in the CAA with 2.36 goals per game, and Cannella considers him “one of the best midfielders in the country.”
Despite the losing record, the Blue Hens have given some of the top teams in the nation a run for their money, including then-No. 1 Loyola, which they lost to by a mere goal. They’ve also suffered one-goal losses to other quality opponents such as Bucknell, Towson and Drexel.
“Their season is hinged on four or five one-goal games, they’re a very athletic team, they’re well-skilled, they have some of the top players in the country in my opinion on their team,” Cannella said. “So we expect them to come in here and play well.”
UMass comes into Friday’s game full of anticipation. This is especially the case for the seniors, whose careers rest on one final game at Garber just to have a shot at another postseason run heading into Saturday night’s games.
Because of this, the seniors are making it their responsibility to handle what they can control.
“Yeah, the urgency is there, we need to do well, we need to win, so it’s definitely gonna be heightened I think to pull out the win,” Tobin said. “It’s gonna be us seniors that have to make the plays.”
Smith, in particular, has mixed emotions heading into Friday. Yes, he’s excited to play for a chance at the postseason. But it also means he’s about to play his last game at Garber Field.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s coming to an end this quickly,” Smith said. “It kind of just sprung up on us but I’m gonna be ready to play. I’m already excited, I can’t wait.”
Nick Canelas can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.