For seniors Georgetown game is paramount

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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It’s hard to look past the idea of doing something for the last time.

For the No. 12 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team seniors, Saturday will be the last time they play at Garber Field in a regular season game.

Those nine seniors will be honored, but that won’t be the focus of the afternoon. UMass coach Greg Cannella stressed to the seniors that their parents will go on the field and their mothers will get flowers, ‘hug ’em and kiss ’em’ and then they will see them after the game.

‘That’s one of the things we need to do, to focus on the game itself,’ Cannella said. ‘It’s great to recognize those guys and their folks and recognize what they’ve done for our program for four years, but for them, I know what’s most important and that’s the game.’

The seniors that will be honored include Tim Balise, Jim Connolly, Dennis Lynch, Brennan Mack, Rory Pedrick, Joe Reale, Doc Schneider, redshirt senior Evan Blum and graduate student P.J. Hendrick.

The senior class has become a crucial element to the Minutemen’s success over the years, some of them aiding the team’s run to the 2006 NCAA championship game. The seniors that are most recognized for their efforts this season are Schneider, Connolly and Balise.‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Last weekend Schneider made a career-high 21 saves in UMass’ 7-6 win over Hobart. He previously made 20 saves last season in the Minutemen’s 12-8 loss to Georgetown ‘- UMass was outshot 61-28. His efforts against Hobart on April 11 earned him his fifth ECAC Defensive Player of the Week honor ‘- he has earned the weekly honor for four of the past five weeks.

Schneider is ranked No. 1 nationally for his .653 save percentage and third for his goals-against average (6.89), while leading the ECAC in both categories. The Minutemen are 4-0 in ECAC play and in conference games Schneider has a .738 save percentage and a 5.23 GAA. In his career, Schneider has made 674 saves, second in UMass all-time save history.

Balise and Connolly have led UMass’ offense all season. The duo has scored 47 of the Minutemen’s 103 goals this season. Connolly leads the team with 30 points (26 goals, four assists) followed by Balise with 26 points (21 goals, five assists).

Connolly has scored at least one goal in every game this season, averaging 2.6 goals per game. He has tallied a hat trick in two of the last three games, four on the season and 11 for his career.

Balise has shown his ability on attack this season. He has 10 goals in the last three games ‘- a hat trick in each. He has scored a goal in the last eight games and has earned a point in UMass’ last 17 games, dating back to last season.

At the start of the season Cannella didn’t know what to expect with this group compared with leaders from past years. He added that he typically doesn’t make these comparisons until the season finishes.

‘There’s a different level of preparation, for sure. And a different level or sense of urgency, particularly the seniors ‘- guys like Doc, Joe Reale, Evan Blum, Rory and Jimmy, Tim, Brennan Mack, Dennis Lynch. All the seniors and I think the rest of the team is aware of that and those guys have done a good job of leading this group this year,’ he said.

Saturday will be the last time UMass (7-3, 4-0 ECAC) plays Georgetown (5-6, 1-3 ECAC) in an ECAC game. Currently the senior class is 0-3 against the Hoyas.

‘I think for the seniors they want that. They want to win the last game they get to play against Georgetown ‘- particularly their last game on Garber Field. I’m not sure that’s the focus that you want,’ Cannella added.‘ ‘

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]