March 5, 2015

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UMass men’s lacrosse falls to Towson despite strong defensive performance

Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian

Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian

Trailing 6-5 with 13 seconds left in the game, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team had the ball exactly where it wanted it: in the stick of Nick Mariano.

The freshmen, who already has one game-winning goal this season, calmly attacked the cage with only one thought on his mind: sending the game to overtime.

This time, however, Mariano came up short as Towson goalkeeper Tyler White watched the ball fall right into his webbing to secure the win for the Tigers.

“I just wanted the ball in that situation,” Mariano said. “I figured I would just try to go hard to the cage. I got a good opportunity but I have to take a better shot.”

No. 11 UMass (7-3, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) found itself in a slow-paced defensive battle, eventually falling to Towson 6-5 at Garber Field on Saturday after a 14-day break between games.

“All CAA games are a battle,” goalkeeper Zach Oliveri said. “Our coaches before the game told us it was going to be a one-goal game, and they made more plays than us today.”

Oliveri kept the Minutemen in the game for the entire 60 minutes, recording 13 saves, nine of which came in the second half. The goalkeeper found himself on the ground multiple times throughout the contest after diving to save shots that were destined for the back of the net. Oliveri’s biggest save came with 1:23 remaining in the game as Towson’s Devin Grimaldi was left unmarked in front of the cage only to have his shot robbed by the UMass goalkeeper.

“Zach played well, made the saves we needed him to make.” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “He’s been consistent all year. Our defense kept us in the game.”

The Tigers (8-3, 2-1 CAA) controlled the tempo from the start, forcing the normally fast-paced Minutemen into more of a slow and methodical game. Five-of-six Towson goals came unassisted, as Joe Seider and Greg Cuccinello each recorded a pair of goals weaving between the UMass defensemen.

Although both sides worked the ball around, breaking down the other’s defense, neither team could convert on their extra-man opportunities as each team went 0-4.

“Zach is a phenominal goalie,” Mariano said. “We count on him a lot and he makes the plays he’s suppose to make. He got us the ball, we just didn’t convert on the offensive end.”

Mariano finished the game two goals while Jeff George, Grant Whiteway and Ryan Izzo each had one apiece in the loss. Both George and Robert Lynott had open looks to tie the game in the final minute that just sailed high on the cage.

“We had plenty of chances,” Cannella said. “Two good teams playing hard, we’re disappointed because we felt like we had opportunities to score and we didn’t.”

Trailing 5-3 in the final minute of the second quarter, Oliveri passed the ball to Izzo to get one last offensive possession before halftime. Izzo then received a pass from the far side wing only to see nothing but open space ahead of him. The short stick defensemen coasted easily right down the ally and put one past White to cut the Towson lead to just one.

But every time the Minutemen brought the game to within one goal, the Tigers seemed to have an answer waiting. Neither team was separate by more than two goals for any part of the game.

“My defense always does a great job. I just wish I could have backed them up more, I let a couple soft ones in, but they played great throughout the entire game,” said Oliveri.

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

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