Scribner: Everybody loves overtime lacrosse

By Herb Scribner

Check out more from the Collegian’s Lacrosse Special Issue: UMass lacrosse shy away from NCAA | Women’s lacrosse is returning the bulk of its roster | McMahon enters second season at helm of women’s lacrosse | Asser: Lacrosse teams a great source of UMass pride | Off the field work translates to on-field excellence for Manny| McCormack leading by example| Collegian’s Special Issue in Print

Evan Sahagian/Collegian

Clouded skies sheeted over the Pioneer Valley, with mere drops of rain descending from above and down onto the cold, grim earth. Frozen and sheltered by blankets of clothing, students and fans alike packed into Garber Field to watch a battle that extended beyond regulation.

I was one of those few in the stands and grudgingly so. It’s one of those moments I’ll talk about forever, one of those moments a beat writer always discusses. I was in pain, wounded from the sharp needles of a cold, wet Saturday night in April.

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team had reached overtime against Drexel, which in college lacrosse meant that the two teams reached a sudden death. Only for this game, on April 16, in front of the 1,827 Minuteman faithful, the game’s sudden-death rules seemed not to apply as it went into not only double overtime, but triple as well.

It was only with two minutes, 57 seconds left in that overtime period when the Minutemen struck hard at the Drexel defense and gave not only themselves a nice, long-awaited breath, but also all of the spectators-turned-icicles in the stands.

“Everybody loves overtime lacrosse,” my beat partner sardonically said to me once the game was over.

It dawned on me then, as it dawned on me again as the lacrosse season neared, that, in fact, no one exactly loves overtime lacrosse. Of course I’m making a generalization, but how many can honestly say they enjoyed sitting outside, on a bitterly-cold day in late April just as it’s getting warm again, watching a team struggle to score through three extra periods.

But my complaints aside – and yes, I have a lot of them – what this really shows the spectators of the men’s lacrosse team is that it will never become the next big thing on campus. It can’t compete with the hockey or basketball. It can’t even rise to the levels that football has – which will surely decline next season, but more on that in April.

Don’t get me wrong, Greg Cannella is doing a fantastic job with the team. Continuously the Minutemen are in the Top 25 and making headlines across the lacrosse news feed. And Cannella doesn’t let that get to his head. He always speaks of how the team doesn’t look at the rankings or worry about what the press says. They go out, each and every game, and compete. Plain and simple.

But the team’s one fault is something it can’t help. The lacrosse team isn’t getting school-wide attention, even though the team is leaps and bounds the best men’s team at the school. Like I already said, consistently the team makes it to the top of the rankings and is always competing against formidable opponents. It’s unlike the basketball team which beats powerhouse Saint Louis but falls to the barely-standing Rhode Island.

Fans don’t want to see overtime lacrosse. Even in a valley which heavily appreciates lacrosse, fans struggle to make it out. I remember on more than one occasion last season when there were more away fans than home fans – which is also true for soccer games for the majority of the season.

I can confidently say that the men’s lacrosse team this season will finish in the upper-echelon of national teams and do it in fashion. Will Manny’s seven goals – yes, you read that right, seven goals – against Army is a clear sign of that. The team will do as it has done for the last few years and that’s winning. Maybe it won’t go all the way, but it’ll make it interesting when it tries.

If there’s one thing my columns have said throughout the school year it’s that the Minutemen brand has been gathering more and more attention as the years have gone by. The men’s basketball team is making it onto SportsCenter, the hockey team is downing future-professional-heavy teams. UMass sports are on the rise.

But the train continues with the lacrosse team. I know all you sports fans reading this will agree with me that seeing UMass on SportsCenter or in the national headlines makes you want to do a salsa dance of your own. So why not take a second and sacrifice a bit of time to watch the men’s lacrosse team in that bitterly-cold day in late April, just as the sundresses return and watch magic unfold on the field.

Maybe you’ll find yourself loving overtime lacrosse.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Scribner.