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May 4, 2017

Freshmen power UMass men’s lacrosse to season opening win at Army

Zoe Mervine/Collegian File Photo

Zoe Mervine/Collegian File Photo

Greg Cannella entered his 20th season as Massachusetts men’s lacrosse coach unsure of where his team’s points would come from.

Cannella got an unlikely answer in Saturday’s season opener at Army, as three freshmen combined for four goals in the Minutemen’s 6-5 win over the Black Knights.

Freshmen Grant Consoletti, Nick Mariano and Jeff George all scored in their collegiate debuts for UMass (1-0), with Mariano scoring twice. Consoletti started the attack exactly five minutes into the game when he popped out from the crease to beat Army goalkeeper Sam Somers.

“It’s good for them,” Cannella said of his freshmen. “Hopefully they can build on it. That’s everybody, if we’re going to be an effective unit, we’ve got to play with more confidence and handle the pressure that we received today.”

UMass lost the shots on goal battle, 27-20, but forced 11 turnovers for the game.

Youth also charged the defensive end for the Minutemen, notably in the form of freshman Aaron Madaisky. The 6-foot-7, 225-pounder effectively sealed the win by forcing and recovering a crucial ground ball, allowing his team to take a timeout with 1:20 left on the game clock.

UMass paced the contest with three goals through the first quarter, the final two coming from Mariano. Army followed the with three consecutive goals in the second frame, but once George broke that tie with just over three minutes until the half, the Minutemen never looked back.

Consoletti called the freshman class an “impact class” and said the young attacking unit gained confidence with each goal.

“I was losing it,” Consoletti said of his scoring debut. “I was really pumped up, I think I’ll always remember it. It’s weird for freshmen to play, especially on a UMass team, but we really stepped up. I feel like the first (win) is the hardest one to get.”

Junior Grant Whiteway buried a bouncing ball midway through the third quarter to extend the lead to 5-3. He scored again six minutes later on a shot five yards up the field from goal line extended.

Whiteway acknowledged the high amount of new faces on this year’s team, but said reps in practice and through two scrimmages have established an early chemistry. He was especially proud of his younger teammates for “grinding it out” away from home.

The veteran attacker added that a strong motion offense was another sign of the rookies becoming comfortable.

“Everyone stepped it up a little bit,” Whiteway said. “It’s huge, but we’ve just got to keep on working. We want to keep it going.

Cannella echoed the junior, saying that his team needs to score in the double digits if it expects to win on a consistent basis. He was cautious to grade individual performances based on such a small sample size, but noted that there is still a learning curve at this stage in the season.

“We’ve won one game,” Cannella said with a sense of realism. “We need to be consistent with our effort and our play. I told the guys, ‘you’re 1-0, but that guarantees only that if you lose the rest of your games, you’re going to be 1-12. You’ve got to work your hardest this week.’”

Peter Cappiello can be reached at pcappiel@umass.edu. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps

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