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UMass men’s lacrosse preps for final regular season game with CAA tournament looming

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team is gearing up for its final tune-up before the most important part of the season begins.

The Minutemen (5-7, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Conference) are preparing for the CAA tournament, the first time they’ve clinched a spot in the conference tournament since 2015, after a 0-5 conference slate last season.

But before the postseason tournament begins, UMass will host Drexel in the final game of the regular season and the final game for 10 seniors at Garber Field.

With the CAA tournament looming, and coming off a 15-8 defeat at No. 7 Hofstra, there is certainly a sense of urgency over in Boyden Gymnasium to close out the season strong.

“There should be [urgency],” Minutemen coach Greg Cannella said. “There is in this office, that’s for sure, and hopefully there is in the locker room. There’s not a lot on the line, but it’s Senior Night and for these guys, going out on Garber Field, you want to get off to a good start and play well in the game.”

Cannella added, “Heck, you’re 2-2 and you’d rather go 3-2 than 2-3 in the conference. Hopefully we can play well.”

The Dragons (6-6, 3-1 CAA) are playing for a chance to secure a berth as a host for the CAA semifinals. Drexel has bested UMass in three of the teams’ previous four regular season meetings, and are riding a three-game winning streak into Amherst, having beaten Fairfield, then-No. 2 Hofstra and Delaware prior to Friday’s 5 p.m. tilt. The Dragons’ lone conference loss came in the opener, falling in a tight 8-7 contest with then-No. 14 Towson.

“This is another group that can really play,” Cannella said. “They have a really high percentage shooting. Cole Shafer and [Reid] Bowering, those guys are upward of 50 percent shooting the ball in terms of their shots. They have some athletic midfielders. They can bring it. They’re very similar to Hofstra in that they can put six guys out there that can really bring it. There’s not any weak links.”

The Dragons’ offensive attack is paced by Shafer, who has tallied a team-leading 33 goals and 40 points through 12 games. As a team, they average 10.42 goals per game. Drexel’s defense is averaging 11.05 goals allowed per contest this season, something that may come as welcome respite for the Minutemen, who’ve failed to score more than nine goals in four of their last five outings. UMass holds the second-lowest mark in the conference with just 8.58 goals scored per game.

“Defensively, they’re aggressive,” Cannella said. “That’s probably their biggest asset. They’re an aggressive team. They have some strong, tough short-stick defense and midfielders that can defend your guys.”

A strong offensive performance would certainly go a long way in ensuring some confidence for the Minutemen come postseason play.

Although the record book would indicate that the final regular season game of the 2017 campaign holds little value for both UMass and Drexel, the Minutemen seniors will certainly be playing with pride on the line in their final contest at Garber Field, especially for captains D.J. Smith (10.42 goals against average), Grant Consoletti (10 assists, eight goals) and Tyler Weeks (12 groundballs).

“Those guys are the meat of our team right now,” Cannella said. “We’re going to miss them and we’re happy they’re with us for sure.”

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at kdaluz@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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