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UMass men’s lacrosse ready to start final stretch of the season against Towson

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

It’s crunch time for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team.

With only four games remaining on its schedule, No. 12 UMass (7-2, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) looks to make one final push toward having the CAA championship come through Amherst.

However, the Minutemen aren’t looking that far down the road just yet. Instead they are focusing all of their attention to Saturday’s matchup against Towson after a 14-day layover between games.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played,” senior Matt Whippen said. “These past two weeks we took a step back to focus on our individual skills, but now we are getting ready for Towson because they’re going to be a good team (and) ready to play us.”

The Tigers (7-3, 1-1 CAA) are one game behind UMass in the standings, so Saturday’s game has the potential to shake up the landscape in the CAA.

The Tigers are led by attackman/midfielder Thomas DeNapoli, who has 15 goals and 15 assists on the season. Joe Seider and Greg Cuccinello also have 20 points on the season. UMass goalkeeper Zach Oliveri plans on having a busy day in the cage against the Towson attack.

“Our defensive preparation is going to have to be on point for Towson,” Minutemen coach Greg Cannella said. “Thomas DeNapoli is one of the better offensive players we’ll see this year, but they have a lot of different weapons so we’ll have to be ready for all of them.”

One thing the Minutemen will need to take advantage of is how much the Tigers struggle when they aren’t on their home field, as they have gone 1-3 on the road.

“I just have to focus on the saves I need to make,” Oliveri said.  “I’m really excited what we have going for us. They’ve got a good offense but we have a good defensive game plan in store so we’ll be ready to meet the challenge.”

Another weakness that UMass will look to exploit is the Tigers’ struggles on the face-off dot this year. As a team, Towson is only 95-for-217 (43.8 percent) on the draw between Conor Pequigney and Alec Burckley.  Joe Calvello, on the other, has excelled for the Minutemen all year, winning 121-193 (62.7 percent) of the face-offs he’s taken.

Towson ranks first in the conference in turnovers per game with 12, so the Minutemen will have to take as advantage of any mistakes the Tigers make.

“We talked to our guys about a lot of things we need to do well this week, but if I have to pick the main focus on this game, it’s going to be make sure we find a way to score more goals than they do,” said Cannella.

Oliveri added: “Every game in the Colonial Athletic Association is a battle and this one is going to be no different, Towson’s a really good team and we are really excited to have another team come to Garber.”

Face-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Garber Field on Saturday.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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