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UMass men’s lacrosse advances to CAA finals courtesy of Dan Muller’s heroics

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was completely outplayed a couple of weeks ago against No. 14 Hofstra in a 15-8 defeat, one that UMass coach Greg Cannella called the team’s worst performance of the season.

The Minutemen (7-7) got the ultimate revenge Thursday night in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinals when Dan Muller ended the Pride’s season and in turn extended UMass’ with a buzzer-beating goal from 35 yards out as time expired at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

“I didn’t know the rule, so I just kind of hucked it at the net and hoped for the best,” Muller said. “I thought he saved it but then I saw it pop up behind him and just kind of went nuts. I didn’t know what to do at first. I’d never been apart of any play like that in my life so I was really good to be honest.”

Muller turned a fired a shot near midfield toward Hofstra goalkeeper Jack Concanon (11 saves) as time was winding down. The ball found the back of the net, and the dramatic win advances the No. 3-seeded Minutemen to the CAA finals on Saturday against top-seeded Towson (9-4), which bested Drexel 8-4 in the semifinals Thursday.

“I knew it [was good] because I heard the horn and the ball was in the air,” Cannella said. “Everybody on our bench knew and the officials were like, ‘huh? What?’ It’s crazy.”

Muller scored three of his team-high four goals in the first half to help give UMass an 8-3 lead at the break. After Dom St. Laurent and Tyler Bogart scored goals in the third quarter, the Pride (11-3) went on a 7-1 run to tie the Minutemen at 11 with 5:24 to go in the game.

Mike McDonough found Dylan Gruder on Hofstra’s man advantage to give UMass a 12-11 moments later, but the Pride responded with a goal themselves to knot the game heading into the final minutes.

Muller had a chance to score as the Minutemen had a man-up opportunity with seconds to play, but his shot went wide left. Hofstra had a chance with seven seconds remaining but also fired wide, setting up Muller for last-second heroics.

Grant Consoletti and St. Laurent each added a goal and a pair of assists. Goalkeeper D.J. Smith made five saves in net.

The Minutemen outshot the Pride 40-26, forced four more turnovers and held a 17-9 faceoff edge thanks to specialist Noah Rak. UMass had eight extra-man opportunities, and Hofstra had 11 of its own.

UMass held a 2-1 lead after one quarter thanks to a pair of Muller tallies. Jesse Leung and Ben Spencer each added a pair of goals, with both of Leung’s coming in the second quarter.

“We played well obviously in the second quarter,” Cannella said. “We jumped out to a big lead. We were in control, sort of, in the third quarter and then we started to foul. They started to win face-offs. Hofstra’s a good team, the way they shoot it. We lost our composure a little bit. We fouled 11 times in the game. Fortunately, we had a lead.

“Our guys played aggressively in the first half and that’s what we wanted out of them. That’s what we’ve wanted all year.”

The Minutemen and Towson will battle for the CAA championship at 1 p.m. from Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Cannella is seeking his second-career CAA conference title and his first since 2012. UMass fell to the Tigers 11-8 back on April 8.

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

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