Men

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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With only an exhibition game and a week of practice left before the regular season begins, Massachusetts men’s lacrosse coach Greg Cannella still has some questions left unanswered.

‘We’re still trying to find out who we are,’ Cannella said. ‘We’re pretty much a very new team ‘- from not only last year, but the fall. There are a couple jobs out there that still haven’t been solidified ‘- they may be by committee during the season the way it is now, unless somebody really steps up.’

His team will get a chance to do just that, as Cannella expects over 30 players to see action in Saturday’s exhibition against Army at Garber Field. It’s the second and final exhibition on UMass’ schedule before the regular season starts Feb. 14 in a home meeting against Sacred Heart.

UMass endured a tumultuous 2008. Before the season even began, eight players ‘- including leading goal scorer Jim Connolly ‘- were kicked off the team for their alleged roles in an off-campus incident. The Minutemen did their best to put it behind them, but finished the season at a disappointing 5-9, including a 3-4 mark in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Two of the suspended players are back ‘- Connolly and Ryan Marcus ‘- but last season’s second-leading goal scorer, Peter McNichols, is not because he is academically ineligible.

Cannella talked about how over the past few weeks he’s learned his team has the leadership to take on anything.

‘I knew we had really good leadership coming in with [senior goalkeeper] Doc Schneider, Tim Balise and Joe Reale. But I’m happy and a little surprised with how other guys have sort of accepted responsibility along with those guys,’ Cannella said. ‘If we can get leadership from top to bottom, with each class, then we’ll have some success.’

Army should provide a good test for the Minutemen. The Black Knights finished last season as regular season Patriot League Champions, ending the year at 9-6 (5-1 Patriot). But for the Minutemen, the exhibition is much more about fine-tuning their game than it is their opponent.

‘We were able to score some goals and I thought we defended Drexel pretty well, but we were sloppy on both ends and we made some poor decisions,’ Cannella said of the first exhibition. ‘We’re just trying to find the right combinations.’

Despite the expected struggles in the first scrimmage, Cannella was encouraged with the resiliency his team exhibited.

‘We went down in the scrimmage and our guys fought back. The guys didn’t quit on each other, they didn’t point any fingers, they just played through it and good things happened,’ Cannella said. ‘Our leadership stood up and made sure of that.’

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]