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UMass men’s lacrosse looks to connect on transition opportunities against Fairfield

(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

It’s no secret the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team has struggled at times this season to put the ball in the back of the cage. They have failed to score double-digit goals in seven of their 10 games this season, averaging 8.3 goals per contest.

When the offense does come alive, UMass (4-6, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) tends to see positive results. They were able to muster 10 or more goals in each game during their three-game winning streak. If the Minutemen want to make another run to close the year, they will need the offense to step up and produce double-digit goals.

“Double-digits. You have to get there if you want a chance to win the game,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said.

The solution to this problem may be easier than you think. It hasn’t been a lack of opportunities that have kept the Minutemen off the scoreboard. Rather, UMass has had a hard time converting on transition opportunities. Whether it be overshooting the net or turning the ball over, the Minutemen have seen solid opportunities go to waste.

If UMass can covert in transition, they should see positive results at the end of games. Its defense has been solid, allowing just 9.9 goals per game. The defense has also been consistent, the only outlier in their games was allowing Albany to put up 17 goals on them in an early season contest. With the defense limiting the opposition, it will be on the Minutemen attack to find the cage on Saturday.

“We need to finish the ball,” Cannella said. “It comes down to finishing. People are being set up with opportunities and those opportunities you need to cash in on.”

The UMass offense has been led by attacker Tyler Bogart. The sophomore leads the team with 20 goals on the season. The Minutemen are led in points by senior Dan Muller, who has been both a scorer and facilitator. Muller has 16 goals and 11 assists on the year, including three hat tricks.

Cannella understands that his offense needs to produce more goals to win games. He wants his players to gain confidence, and the best way to do that is in practice. Instead of letting it get the team down, they continue to try to improve and figure out their mistakes.

“Very tough and frustrating for everybody,” Cannella said of the missed scoring chances. “Not just the coaches, the players and the guys who are getting those opportunities. Every one counts in practice. If you’re shooting in practice or you’re involved in those transition situation in practice. Every one counts.”

The Minutemen haven’t done a good job of getting themselves a lead to start games this year. They have gotten themselves into deficits they are unable to dig themselves out of, such last week against Towson where they found themselves down six goals in the second quarter.

If UMass is able to jump out of the gate and pick up a lead against Fairfield on Saturday, they should like their odds of winning. The Stags have had their problems offensively this year, averaging around 8.3 goals per game. If the Minutemen are able to get out to a fast start, it may be enough to push them to victory.

“We’ve been a slow starting team all year,” Cannella said. “We’ve been down in most games this year. That’s not good. I think it’s just our guys just going at it and playing their hearts out from the get-go.”

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

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