UMass upset Black Knights Saturday at Garber

By Herb Scribner

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Saturday was a tough day to compete on Garber Field.

Aside from the middle-of-winter chill and the light breeze, both the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team and Army faced off in a contest which was at one point back-and-forth, but turned into a territorial lockdown by the No. 16 Minutemen in their 8-5 win over the No. 12 Black Knights.

“Obviously as an opener we couldn’t be happier with the effort that the guys gave, the preparation they put into it, the effort that they gave [and] the intensity that they brought for 60 minutes,” said University of Massachusetts coach Greg Cannella.

The 60 minutes of play offered a strong showcase by the offensive side. Leading the way in offensive production was Will Manny (two goals and assists) and Colin Fleming (two goals) who connected nicely for two of the scores in the contest.

“It was just all emotion. It was the fight, the UMass way, never giving up,” said Fleming. “I’ve never scored two goals in a college game, but at the same time I felt I could have scored two more.”

The offense didn’t put in too much work though, as the team combined for eight goals in the quarter, a relatively low number for college lacrosse. The Minutemen averaged 11 goals per contest last season.

“I was really happy with the way we played on offense, even though we scored eight goals,” said Cannella. “Typically if you score eight goals, you’re not going to win a game in college lacrosse.”

On the opposite end of the field, Black Knights goalkeeper Tom Palesky made 18 saves and kept his team in it, denying the Minutemen offense for a part of the game.

“[He’s a] big kid, athletic, great hands,” said Cannella. “You saw the saves that he made. We shot it high, we shot it low, we shot it at his hips, we shot it everywhere and he made saves so give him a lot of credit.”

Although Cannella was quick to give credit to Palesky for his top performance in the cage, he also acknowledged the downside to the Maroon and White offense.

“We got looks, hopefully that’s something in the future here we can cash in on more,” said Cannella.

Defensively, the Minutemen worked well to stabilize the Black Knights’ offense. As Army was held down and kept off much possession, goalkeeper Tim McCormack made a slew of saves to keep the Minutemen from falling behind. Both McCormack and the defense limited the strength the Black Knights have in scorer Garrett Thul.

The Minutemen’s defensive established their dominance as the game continued into late quarters.  

The first quarter saw a 2-0 lead by the Minutemen, even though they took a heavy amount of shots (20) but failed to convert. The great amount of missed shots had Cannella worried about future games this season.

“In the first quarter, 2-0, I was a little worried,” Cannella said. “So I’m a little worried where the games going where, especially if a goalie’s hot early, your shooters start to think about it a little bit more. We told them just keep shooting, don’t think about it.”

The Minutemen seized control after Army made a two-goal comeback in the second quarter. It remained close for the majority of the first half, with both teams trading goals and heading into the halftime break with a 5-3 score in favor of UMass.

The second half produced less offense as UMass showed territorial defense, which enabled the team to lock down on their opponents and close out the game.

With a win under their belts, the Minutemen prepare for the rest of their upcoming non-conference schedule which includes a road game against Hartford next Saturday. Cannella explained that although his team performed well, there is still much to be considered as the season unfolds.

“You’ve got to do it 12 more times, you can’t just do it once and be happy with it,” said Cannella. “We need to get tougher, more disciplined and we had it today.”

McCormack sang a similar tune as Cannella.

“We had a month to prepare for this one, the next one’s a week so we’ve got to snap back right away on Monday and get ready for Hartford,” said McCormack.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]