Also see: Video: CAA Championship Award Ceremony
In its last two games at Garber Field, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team competed under the lights against Delaware. The first was the regular season finale, and Senior Night, which featured an 11-5 pounding by the Maroon and White.
This past Saturday, the two sides met again, only this time the Blue Hens notched out a 9-7 victory and snagged the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, which includes an automatic bid into the 16-team NCAA Tournament.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said UMass defender Tom Celentani. “It’s heartbreaking to be the last game with this team. We had something special this year. We could have went far this year but we didn’t have it all today.”
“It is frustrating, especially when you have your chances early in the game,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “It’s very frustrating, frustrating for everybody.”
The Minutemen couldn’t rely on its old season-long habits in the loss to Delaware, as they failed to score any significant number of goals (one) in the third quarter. This is from a team that notched seven goals in the third in its CAA Semifinal contests against Penn State.
The third quarter proved to be the most important and affected the Minutemen in a negative way as not only were they outshot 10-4, but were outscored 3-1.
Additionally, the two sides played a slower game with the UMass offense failing to join the party. Though the Minutemen did see Art Kell and Will Manny score a pair, they didn’t get relief from freshman Connor Mooney, who has been known this season for scoring tears. Ryan Hantverk, Kyle Smith and Mike Fetterly all scored one goal in the contest.
For Delaware, faceoffs proved to be influential as Dan Cooney, who won four faceoffs in the regular season, won 13-of-19 attempts.
“He was quick on the clamp,” said Cannella. “He’s quick to it, it seemed like he really wanted it today.”
Two-straight goals from the Blue Hens set the tone of the contest in the early going, revealing that this wasn’t the same team that the Minutemen defeated two weeks ago. Delaware entered into the CAA final having defeated Hofstra, a team that went undefeated in the CAA.
“It was definitely a much better team,” said Celentani. “I think they just executed better and we executed a lot worse.”
With the two scores hanging heavy on the Minutemen, they stormed right back in the second period with a pair of their own from Manny and Kell, with the latter assisting the former on his effort.
Delaware continued to score with a goal from Nick Diachenko to grab hold of the lead for nearly six minutes of play before UMass sent two balls into the back of the net that spanned the end of the second and the beginning of the third. This was the only point in the game when the Minutemen held the lead.
The Blue Hens unleashed three straight scores to grab back the lead and assert their dominance. Though the Minutemen scored another pair, Delaware sent in another triplet of goals. It made Smith’s final score with nearly three minutes remaining not enough to push the team forward.
The loss could potentially end the Minutemen season as they wait to hear on a possible at-large big for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Regardless of what happens with the selection show, Cannella still looks at this season as a success.
“We got 10 wins this year; in a climate of Division I lacrosse that’s a great season,” said Cannella. “You hope this is experience is good for them, you hope you can get back in this situation — that’s the hard part.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]