Minutemen battle Black Knights in season-opener

By Jackson Alexander

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

On Friday, a pair of preseason heavyweights will square off as the No. 13 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team faces Army in the regular season-opener for both teams.

The Minutemen will begin their season on the road after competing in exhibition games versus both St. John’s and Siena.

Last season, the Minutemen finished 10-5 – their highest win total since 2006 – but were denied an NCAA tournament berth in the final game of the season by Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game. They lost the game at Garber Field in heartbreaking fashion, as the Blue Hens narrowly won, 9-7.

Much of the hype revolving around the Minutemen comes down to the return of junior Will Manny and senior Anthony Biscardi. The duo was first and third, respectively, on the team in scoring last year.

Manny tallied 45 points on 22 goals and 23 assists, while Biscardi registered 30 points with his 10 goals and 20 assists.

However, UMass also lost a few key members from last year’s squad.

Art Kell, last year’s leading goal scorer, graduated, as did Ryan Hantverk, who ranked fourth on the team in points.

This means that players like Connor Mooney (14 goals, two assists), Colin Fleming (13 goals, five assists), and Kyle Smith (11 goals, four assists) must step up and fill the scoring void left by Kell and Hantverk.

Redshirt senior caption Tim McCormack will likely be starting in goal again this season.

McCormack put together an impressive season behind the net, as his 8.28 goals-against average ranked 20th in the nation and fourth in the CAA.

Another reason for optimism is that the defense that played in front of McCormack last season returns.

Greg Anderson, Jake Smith, Tom Celentani and Ryan Hollenbaugh all return for the Minutemen as starters. All four of the defenders started at least 14 of UMass’ 15 games last season.

The season-opener against Army should prove a tough test, as some polls have ranked the Black Knights inside their preseason Division I Top 25 lists.

Like UMass, the Black Knights see some rollover from last year’s team and key players that left after their 9-6 season.

Most notably, Army won’t be playing with last year’s top scorer Jeremy Boltus, who graduated. Boltus led his team in points by a large margin, as he racked up 24 goals and 45 assists.

While the loss of Boltus will be tough to stomach, last year’s leading goal scorer, Garrett Thul (42 goals), will be back for the Black Knights.

Devin Lynch who was tied for third on the team for most points with 22 also rejoins the team this year.

Perhaps the toughest loss for Army is the departure of last season’s goalkeeper, Tom Palesky. He recorded a stellar 8.11 GAA, and stopped 54 percent of the shots he faced.

The Minutemen also played the Black Knights in the season-opener last year and were halted in an 8-5 loss. Friday’s game will be played in High Point, N.Y., at 3 p.m.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.