Minutemen use strengths in victory over Pride

By Mike Gillmeister

As of March 25, the No. 18 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team topped the Colonial Athletic Association in per-game totals of caused turnovers, goals and ground balls. In their 11-9 win over No. 6 Hofstra, the Minutemen effectively utilized all of these skills.

UMass (6-2, 1-0 CAA) flustered the many scoring opportunities gained by the Pride (4-2, 0-1) all day, including 13 shots in the final period.

Although the effort in goal of sophomore Tim McCormack (12 saves) was solid against Hofstra, he’ll need to bring that kind of effort every game against increasingly more skilled opponents.

“Hopefully he can be consistent, and continue to be consistent, and then gain some confidence, and stick with that confidence,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “It’s a long road here, we have five more games and nothing is going to be easy, so Timmy’s going to have to be really solid for us.”

McCormack’s fourth-quarter stand made the difference in the game. His six saves in the final period totaled his save total in the first three quarters combined.

The rest of the UMass defense did well to match McCormack’s winning efforts, McCormack, himself, being the first to acknowledge this.

When asked about the outcome of the game, McCormack immediately stated that without the efforts of the defense against such a high-powered offensive attack by Hofstra, the Minutemen wouldn’t be celebrating a win right now.

“This [win] isn’t even in the question right now without the defense playing like we did all day,” McCormack said. “Guys [on defense] were putting the ball on the ground, getting the clear every time, and it was just a great effort all around.”

When composure matters the most

Struggling to control opponents’ scoring runs has, at times, been a weakness for UMass this season, giving up as much as eight goals in a single run. The Pride strung together three runs of two or three-straight goals, including a three-goal run in the third quarter that brought Hofstra back within three.

However, every goal in the run occurred when the Minutemen were on the penalty kill. In all, the Pride was 4-for-7 on extra-man opportunities while UMass failed to convert its only man-up opportunity.

While Cannella feels that some of his players committed easy fouls because they let emotion take over, he admits that there’s only so much that he and his coaching staff can control while being on the sidelines.

“There were a couple situations there where we are swinging our sticks, and that will come back to haunt us,” Cannella said. “It’s not an easy thing for us as coaches to control, for sure, but that will come back to haunt us in certain games if we don’t keep our cool and we don’t keep our composure in those situations.”

Well-rounded in the circle

Face-offs were a big part of how the Minutemen contained the Hofstra offensive attack.

Sophomore Greg Rushing went 12-for-20 in the circle, including five face-off wins to the Pride’s zero in the second quarter, which ultimately led to a 4-0 scoring run by UMass, which changed the pace of the game in favor of the Minutemen.

Cannella attributes UMass’ success in the circle to the diligent work of volunteer assistant coach Joe Reale, who works with the midfield.

“Joe Reale has been helping us, with [Rushing] and Anthony Toresco and those guys work their tails off every day, and in this game, I thought it made a difference,” Cannella said. “It really did, especially the second quarter – we won five face-offs to their zero, and what happens, we score, so it makes a big difference.”

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected]