Defense holds strong for UMass men’s lacrosse in loss to Brown
Despite the score not going its way, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse defense should walk out of the March 25 home game against the Brown Bears with its head held high.
Brown entered the game as the second highest scoring team in the country, averaging 16.33 goals per game. Its offense is one that pushes the tempo and tries to get as many shots on cage as possible—coming into the game averaging 47 shots per game.
UMass (3-5, 0-0 CAA) was able to limit the Bears (4-3, 1-0 Ivy League) to just 10 goals in the overtime contest, their lowest scoring game of the season. The Minutemen were also able to successfully slow down the fast-paced Brown team to just 37 shots on cage.
“We’re pleased with everyone’s effort,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said after the game. “We wanted to slow the game down a little bit because they played so much up-tempo. We needed to win face-offs. We rode them pretty hard, we turned them over three or four times on the ride. We did everything we needed to do with those guys. We were pleased with everyone’s effort.”
The Minutemen were also tasked with slowing down reigning Tewaaraton award winner Dylan Molloy. Molloy, one of the best attackers in the country, entered Saturday’s matchup as the nations leading goal scorer, averaging four goals per game. UMass kept a close eye on Molloy all game, with sophomore defenseman Isaac Paparo tasked with shadowing him for a majority of the game.
The Minutemen were extremely physical with the 220-pound Molloy throughout the game, not letting him feel comfortable in front of the cage. They also gave Paparo a lot of help, throwing multiple defenders at Molloy as he finished the game with just one goal and one assist.
“He’s a big boy,” Paparo said about Molloy. “I’m not that big. He’s about 220 and I’m only 160. It was a battle. But a lot of the help came from my other teammates. You see a lot of times we got the ball out of his stick either early or we would double team him.”
UMass got strong play from goalie DJ Smith. While the defense did their job preventing the Brown attack from bombarding Smith with shots in net, Smith held his end of the bargain, finishing the game with 16 saves.
The Minutemen defense was also able to force 18 turnovers creating extra possessions for their offense while disrupting the Bears. The defense also held strong when Brown had extra-man opportunities, limiting them to one goal on three chances.
“It was a big challenge,” Paparo said. “We knew that going in, they’re one of the most productive offenses in the country. We knew we had a big task at hand, we prepared the right way. Everyone was on the same page on the defensive end. [Assistant] Coach [Craig] McDonald put in a great game plan to slow down their up-tempo play. That’s a success to hold them to 10 goals, but it wasn’t enough.”
Paparo and the defense knew they would need to stay focused and play extremely disciplined to keep the game close.
“I wouldn’t say we played a full 60 minutes of disciplined defense, but we were much better than we were in previous weeks and that showed. We didn’t give them extra opportunities. We limited a lot of those transition, a lot of their goals came off 6 on 6.”
If UMass can continue its strong defensive play, it will see the more games fall in its favor.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.