UMass men’s lacrosse back on the road at Yale on Tuesday, continuing long trip away from Garber Field
The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, nicknamed the Garber Gorillas after its home Garber Field, has been noticeably absent from the Garber turf during the beginning of the 2017 season.
After opening the season at home against Army, UMass (0-4) has played three straight away from Amherst and will wrap up this daunting road stretch on Tuesday at Yale (1-2).
Minutemen coach Greg Cannella pointed out that while the team has been on the road a lot, only the game against Ohio State included any significant travel, while the rest were one-day trips.
“I guess it’s tough,” Cannella said of the four-game stretch on the road. “There was only one trip that was that far, out to Ohio State. Typically if you play 14 games, seven are on the road, seven are at home, so if you’re going to be a good team, you have to win games on the road.”
While the UMass defense features a freshman in the starting lineup with Dan O’Brien, upperclassmen Tyler Weeks and Luc Valenza add some stability to ensure these early road games do not particularly affect the back end.
“I think it would be more for the younger guys than it is the older guys,” Cannella said of the road games presenting an issue for the defense. “Maybe for a guy like Dan O’Brien who’s down there, but not for D.J. [Smith], or Tyler Weeks who’s a senior, or Luc Valenza who’s a junior. It shouldn’t be. It should be ‘hey, this is another big game on our schedule, so let’s go play well.’”
After talking to those players Cannella mentioned, his assessment seemed pretty spot on.
“I feel like it kind of takes a little bit of a toll on the boys, traveling every weekend, but I definitely think this is a good opportunity to capitalize, and our next home game versus UMass Lowell will be something really special,” O’Brien said, agreeing that the schedule has provided some difficulties in his first collegiate season.
Just like Cannella said, the task is a little bit easier for the seniors who have experienced something similar when the Minutemen played three out for four games on the road early in the 2014 season.
“I think at first it was a little tough, but I think we got the hang of it. Just like any other game, but you’ve just got to get your routine down. Once you get that down it’s pretty similar,” Weeks said.
These constant road trips provide the seniors another opportunity to take on a leadership role and show the younger players how to approach a road game.
“We’ve always preached it’s really important on these day trips where it’s only a couple hour drive to stay awake on the bus, keep your mind focused on the game and then once that bus stops and you get off the bus, it’s all business,” Smith said. “Joking’s over and get the game face ready, and we try to do it with doing it ourselves and leading by example.”
The reality of the situation is UMass was not really in a position to dictate the location of the game. When the Minutemen could not schedule a game this year against North Carolina, who it had faced the past two seasons, UMass was forced to find another opponent.
A strong team like the Bulldogs, who have made it to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons, has a bit more of a say in whom and where they play.
“We agreed to play down there first, because or else they maybe wouldn’t have played us, so you do what you have to do to schedule good teams, or any team, honestly,” Cannella said.
Scheduling the game against Yale was made easier through Cannella’s relationship with Bulldogs coach Andy Shay, who coached for four years under Cannella at UMass.
Playing a local team like the Bulldogs also provides an economic benefit to the Minutemen.
“[It] makes it a lot easier if you can play top, top opponents that are very close, like Albany, like Harvard, like Brown, like Yale. They’re easy trips, they’re day trips, so it saves you a lot of money as well,” Cannella said.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Yale’s Reese Stadium.
Jamie Cushman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter @Jamie__Cushman.