Minutemen look to rebound against Yale

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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James Weliver/Collegian

An early season matchup in 2008 with Yale created a bit of a tailspin for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team last year.

After a heartbreaking 11-10 loss in the final seconds against No. 13 Hofstra this past weekend, the 2009 Minutemen look to bounce back against Yale on Saturday and avoid a fate similar to last year.

Working in UMass’ favor this time around against the Bulldogs: Saturday’s meeting is home at Garber Field and the Minutemen (1-1) are simply more talented than they were last year in a 5-9 season.

But the Bulldogs, who beat Holy Cross, 13-8, in their season opener last weekend, will look to duplicate last year’s 7-4 win by pouncing on a perhaps vulnerable Minuteman team still reeling from the loss to Hofstra.

UMass coach Greg Cannella is confident there will be no ill-effects from that defeat come Saturday.

‘Initially, the guys were really bummed, so it’s hard to get through to them there. If we played [Yale] on Tuesday it might be a different story, but we’re playing Saturday, so you have some time to let it digest and get past it,’ Cannella said. ‘I think our team will be fine.’

The Minutemen, who led 7-3 at halftime and never trailed throughout until Sacred Heart scored the winning goal with four seconds left, played well against the Pride, but couldn’t hold on for the victory.

‘I thought they played their hearts out and they can be proud of that ‘- we just kind of ran out of time in the end,’ Cannella said. ‘Hofstra is a very good team, we played them on the road, we had a chance to win the game and we didn’t and now we have to move on.

‘[The coaches] talked about how it’s good that our guys are bummed, pissed. To me, to the coaches, that means they care about what they’re doing here. That’s ok, but you can’t let it affect your preparation for the future.’

The immediate future brings the Bulldogs, a team that historically has struggled against the Minutemen, but has taken each of the last two meetings against UMass ‘- including a 2007 victory at Garber Field.

The difference for Yale over the past few years seems to be coach Andy Shay, who served as an assistant under Cannella at UMass from 2000-03.

‘Andy Shay worked here with me for four years so he has a familiarity with what we do as a program,’ Cannella said.

That familiarity resulted in what Cannella considers ‘one of the more boring games I’ve been involved in as a coach,’ when the Minutemen failed to muster any offense (four goals) while Yale just held the ball for much of the game to win 7-4.

Leading the way for Yale offensively are attacking brothers Brendan and Matt Gibson. Brendan, a junior, has scored 54 goals over the past two seasons. His freshman brother scored one goal in the win over the Crusaders in the opener.

‘They are both really talented kids. They have slick sticks, are fast, tough,’ Cannella said. ‘They go 100 percent and bring a lot of energy to that team. They are unselfish and a handful.’

The Minutemen don’t have a pair of brothers, but they have a dynamic duo at attack, too, with Jim Connolly and Tim Balise starring on offense. Connolly has started a bit slow this season, scoring one goal in each game. Balise led UMass in the season-opening victory, scoring three goals and assisting on two others. However, he went scoreless against Hofstra.

The Minutemen have a balanced offense, but will likely need their two offensive leaders to produce to avoid a 1-2 start heading into next weekend’s game against No. 15 Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]