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UMass lacrosse looks ahead to matchup with speedy Drexel

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Massachusetts men’s lacrosse coach Greg Cannella can be sure of one thing when he looks ahead to Saturday’s matchup with Drexel – a fast game.

Cannella expects a fast-paced duel between the Dragons (7-4, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) and his own speedy team. UMass (7-3, 1-1 CAA) is looking to pick up the pace after a 6-5 home loss to Towson, who successfully slowed down the game to suit its style of play on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Drexel.

Drexel (11.6 goals per game) won last year’s series meeting with the Minutemen, 15-14, in a game reminiscent of a shootout. Midfielder Ben McIntosh and attack Nick Trizano, both seniors with 42 and 35 points respectively, return to give the Dragons’ offense teeth.

“They’re loaded with talent,” Cannella said. “The group on offense in general plays really well together. They’re all unselfish, they share (the ball) and they shoot it well.”

Cannella called McIntosh, the CAA Co-Player of the Week, one of the best players in the country and a likely candidate for the conference player of the year.

The hype surrounding McIntosh is something that Ryan Izzo, a midfielder for the Minutemen, welcomes. McIntosh and other midfielders are the redshirt junior’s upcoming assignment.

“This week, I personally want to own my matchup,” Izzo said.

He noted his teammates’ disappointment after a close loss to Towson and said they are hungry to convert desire into results. He added that playing on the road doesn’t affect the game plan.

Senior Connor Mooney also talked up the importance of treating opponents equally, but said the game would be a valuable conference win.

The attack/midfielder had a hat trick and an assist last year against Drexel. He said capitalizing on space in the zone led to a lot of quality outside chances last year. Mooney also cited feeds from recent graduate Will Manny as helpful in that win.

“Both teams were able to put the ball in the goal and it really came down to the last possession,” Mooney said. “We were trading goals and they beat us out in the end.”

He feels fortunes could be different this time for UMass if goaltender Zach Oliveri and the defense carry over their success from last week and the offense finds a rhythm. Oliveri made 13 saves, including unlikely athletic stops that kept the game in reach on at least four separate occasions.

Grant Whiteway, a junior attack, pointed out that his team was 0-for-14 in the fourth quarter of the Towson game. He said that missed opportunities like that would lead to a loss against Drexel. Whiteway had five goals against the Dragons last year and set a career-high this season with a seven-goal performance on March 11.

Finishing the ball is his main focus for the upcoming game after scoring once on three attempts against the Tigers. But it’s something he said has to be constant through the rest of the schedule, particularly with the looming CAA Tournament.

“I think everyone knows that there’s still a lot of lacrosse to be played,” Whiteway said. “We’re a scrappy league and all the games are always close. That’s why it’s fun to play in this conference; it’s competitive and every game matters.”

Peter Cappiello can be reached at pcappiel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @petecapps.

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