By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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Goalkeeper Doc Schneider and the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team face a big challenge this Saturday against rival Hofstra’s talented and deep offensive attack.

UMass travels to No. 14 Hofstra this weekend, looking to build off of a strong 15-6 season-opening victory over Sacred Heart. For the Pride, it’s the first game of the season, while it will be the Minutemen’s second overall and first road game.

‘They’ll probably know more about us than we will about them,’ UMass coach Greg Cannella said before practice on Thursday. ‘They’ll be fired up coming out of the gates. It’s a seasoned veteran team they have so I don’t think we’ll have an advantage in that regard.’

Last season, UMass hosted Hofstra in both teams’ season openers. The Minutemen beat the Pride, 8-4 behind a stellar performance from Schneider (19 saves) and the rest of the defense. The UMass and Hofstra rivalry is well known throughout collegiate lacrosse ‘- the teams have played once every season since 1992 and the rivalry will grow next season when UMass leaves the Eastern College Athletic Conference to join Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association.

UMass leads the all-time series against Hofstra 18-15, including taking seven of the last eight meetings. In the Minutemen’s run to the NCAA National Championship game in 2006, they played Hofstra in the NCAA quarterfinal game. UMass was down five goals late in the fourth quarter and came back to win, 11-10, in overtime to advance to the semifinals.

‘Anytime you have a rivalry, in my opinion, you have two really good teams that compete hard every time out and that’s what creates that,’ Cannella said. ‘Obviously we play every year and we played in the NCAA tournament a few times, three times in my tenure. The more and more you play the more the rivalry grows because you are so familiar with the other school.’

The Minutemen are coming off a successful season opener in their 15-6 win over Sacred Heart on Feb. 14. The Minutemen’s offense had a strong showing ‘- six players scored at least two goals in the win.

‘You can always finish the ball a little bit better,’ Cannella said when looking back on the win. ‘We still shot under 30 percent even though we scored 15 goals. It’s hard to complain, but we took 51 shots and we took a lot of shots that missed the cage or the goalie made decent saves. You always want to shoot at a higher percentage.’

Hofstra is known for its strong offense. In the 2008 season, five players had more than 20 goals.

‘They’ve got some middies that can really take it to the rack,’ Cannella said. ‘Their attack has two great scorers in [Tom] Dooley and [Jay] Card. [Dan] Stein is also a guy that handles the ball a little bit more.’

To hold off the Pride’s offense UMass will have to play as a group defensively to support Schneider.

‘That’s really going to be our focus, you can’t just say you’re going to stop this one guy because there is a bunch of them that can really hurt you,’ Cannella said.

The Minutemen hope to improve on last weekend’s game against Sacred Heart by finishing better, making precise clears and playing better defense.

‘We’d like to clear it a little bit better. Hofstra is going to bring a little bit of pressure to us, so we are going to want to try and clear it the best that we can,’ Cannella said. ‘And not give a team like Hofstra the second-chance opportunities that we gave to Sacred Heart last week. Hofstra will make us pay for it.’

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]