Minutemen continue to have success in overtime

By Herb Scribner

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Maria Uminski/Collegian

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Overtime is one of the more successful periods for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team.

The Minutemen are currently riding a two-game winning streak in overtime periods, both of which were capped off with Kyle Smith scoring the winning goal. Between the two victories against Towson and Drexel, UMass has competed in an extra quarter’s worth of competition.

“I’d rather win the game in regulation,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “You go into overtime and the game changes. It’s sudden victory and there’s a lot of pressure on both teams.”

With the Minutemen facing Hofstra on Saturday in the ESPNU Warriors Classic, Cannella said that his team might have ample experience to come out with a victory if the team gets pressured into another overtime thriller.

“We’re happy we were able to persevere in the last two and if it comes again, the guys have that experience and that vision of success within those game shows they’ve done it before,” said Cannella. “Again, we’d rather play well and have to play 60 minutes and not play the extra periods.”

Historically, UMass has found success in overtime games as it has won seven of its last eight extra-time affairs. After falling 9-8 to Yale in 2004, the team went on a tear to win the next seven of eight, save for its 10-9 overtime loss to Albany back in 2007.

With experience in overtime, Cannella has formed his own strategy for the extra periods, which includes keeping the team composed and not allowing anyone to try and be the hero.

“I always tell the guys, ‘Don’t change the way you play,’” said Cannella. “You get into those situations and guys feel like they have to be the guy to win it or be the guy that makes the defensive play. When you do that, more so with our game because it is sudden victory, you may end up trying to do too much.”

Cannella cited the Minutemen’s recent victory against Drexel as an example of how he keeps his team composed. When Anthony Biscardi claimed the ball, all eyes were on him to shoot. Instead, Biscardi dished the ball off to Smith for an attempt. Although Smith’s ball was saved, Biscardi still sacrificed personal glory for the sake of the team.

“He didn’t change the way he played,” said Cannella. “He didn’t say, ‘I’m going to score this one because I want to be the hero.’ You tell the guys, ‘Hey, don’t try to be the hero, just be yourself and continue to do what you do.’”

Smith eventually found the back of the net against the Dragons, which was his second-consecutive overtime goal. The first came against Towson, as Smith scored with 1:55 left on the clock to push UMass to a 9-8 victory.

Smith is one of three Minutemen that have not only scored a goal in the overtime period, but also have a familiar background to the Maroon and White. Smith is the son of former UMass All-American Norm Smith.

Former UMass player Jim Connolly – son of Steve Connolly, who captained the 1969 undefeated squad – had one of the more memorable overtime goals as he secured a victory over Hofstra in the NCAA Quarterfinals back in 2006. Connolly received a pass from Brett Garber for the goal.

Connolly also notched another overtime goal in 2009 as his blast notched a 7-6 victory over Hobart.

Garber had his own overtime goal in 2007 as he scored on his grandfather’s field, but also defeated Penn State in the process. Garber, as his name dictates, is the grandson of UMass legend Richard Garber.

Though it was a non-conference game at the time, the Nittany Lions became a familiar face for the Minutemen when UMass joined the CAA.

“It’s a pretty cool thing,” said Cannella on the legacy relation. “Those guys will be able to reflect and revel in that stuff after this season and after their careers are over. Especially a guy like Kyle, he’s probably not thinking about that right now. Jimmy and Brett, boy, what great memories that is for those guys and their families.”

As the Minutemen head into their game on Saturday, practice has gone as usual. Though Cannella said that when players are tired, as they might be after an extra quarter’s amount of work in overtime minutes, coaches will ask players whether they’re good to compete and practice.

“I think after 22 years, you get to know your team a little bit and have experience with [overtime],” said Cannella. “Naturally guys are going to be warn down and you have to be aware of that. If we think they’re struggling, they’re sucking wind, we’ll back off of them.”

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]