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UMass men’s lacrosse looks to get offense back on track against Ohio State

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

Last season, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team followed up an opening game loss with an upset win against Ohio State. This year, the Minutemen (0-1) will look to do the same, as they travel down to Columbus to take on the No. 20 ranked Buckeyes (2-0).

In their first game of the year, UMass struggled offensively, scoring just two goals on nine shots on net. The execution was not there, as it had many scoring opportunities but failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Minutemen coach Greg Cannella wants to see more fight in his team come this Saturday.

“You want to see passion,” Cannella said. “You want to see guys flying around the field and play aggressively, but be aggressive and be excited about playing.”

UMass had other chances to put the ball in the net against Army, including three man-up situations, but failed to convert a goal on any of them. Cannella has prepared his team on situational gameplay and wants to see his teams execute better against the Buckeyes.

“A couple plays go your way and it changes the game—that’s in every game,” Cannella said. “We talked to our guys about the moments that arise in games and you have to take advantage of them and last week we didn’t. If we do that in the future, we have a chance.”

The Minutemen will look to continue getting goals from seniors Gianni Bianchin and Dan Muller. They were the only two to find the back of the net against Army, and will look to carry their confidence into Columbus.

One of the areas Cannella hopes to see his team improve upon this week is their confidence. He felt it was lacking in the first game, which led to missed opportunities. Cannella knows how important it is to have a confident group, and tried to instill it into the team this week.

“It’s hard to manufacture [confidence],” he said. “The only way we can do it is to ramp up practice and let them know we’re confident in them and that they’re our guys. [We have to] try to play at a faster speed and have a faster tempo on the offensive end.”

“Hopefully those guys play loose, and that’s the key. You can’t play tight, otherwise you think too much and you’re going to be hesitant and we don’t want that.”

Despite giving up nine goals to Army, the UMass defense went out and made plays. Jeff Trainor, Isaac Paparo and Luc Valenza all caused multiple turnovers, with Valenza leading the team with four groundballs. Cannella is hoping to see consistent play out of the team’s defense.

“Defensively, we’re facing another really good offensive team,” Cannella said. “If that group wants to solidify themselves as a strength, you have to be consistent and play well.”

The Minutemen struggled in the faceoff department against Army, going just 5-for-15. Things will not get any easier against Ohio State, as they must take on the 2016 Big Ten specialist of the year Jake Withers. Withers has struggled somewhat through the first two games of the year, going 19-for-41 on faceoffs. Cannella knows the importance of winning faceoffs and gaining possessions against Ohio State.

“Going 5-for-15 in faceoffs, you want to improve on that,” Cannella said. “Withers is great off the ground. We’re going to have to do a good job on that, our wing play needs to be better. We have to be a little more organized.”

Game time is set for noon in Columbus.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@umass.edu and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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