Men’s lacrosse heads to Gillette

By Jackson Alexander

For the second-straight game, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team (tied for No. 1 in the USILA Coaches’ Poll and ranked No. 2 overall in the Inside Lacrosse poll) will play a Colonial Athletic Association game at a neutral site, this time at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.

The Minutemen (11-0, 4-0 CAA) have a chance to clinch the regular season conference title this week as they face Hofstra (6-6, 2-2 CAA) this Saturday at 5 p.m. in the 3rd Annual New England Lacrosse Classic at Gillette.

“We’re all excited about going down there, but you’ve got to be able to handle that too and hopefully our guys can,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella.

Despite the venue, Cannella doesn’t view the upcoming game any differently. “It’s the same kind of thing, honestly,” said Cannella.

He pointed out that earlier in the year the team played at historic football stadiums in Penn State and Ohio State. And last week, the Minutemen played in Long Island before a crowd of 4,000 – the largest attendance of any game this season – in a homecoming for Cannella and seven of his players.

Saturday serves as an opportunity for the Minutemen to pay back the embarrassing defeat they suffered at the hands of the Pride last season.

The teams faced off at another neutral site, the University of Connecticut, on April 23, 2011. The game went as miserably as possible for UMass, as Hofstra thumped the Minutemen, 14-5.

“They killed us,” said Cannella. “They put it to us early, that game was never in question. Hofstra was going to win that day.”

The Pride took a 7-2 halftime lead and never let up in the second half. They scored all five goals of the third quarter to push their lead to 10 going into the final quarter. UMass put together three goals in the final frame, but that effort was not enough to make the score respectable.

Jay Card and Adrian Sorichetti led the way that day for Hofstra, as Card topped all scorers with five points, while Sorichetti went for a hat trick and added an assist.

The Pride dominated UMass statistically, as they outshot the Minutemen 47-22. Hofstra also collected 12 more ground balls, and won nine more faceoffs than its counterpart.

“It was a matter of execution on their part last year,” said Cannella.

Card has since graduated, but Sorichetti still remains on the team, and is the Pride’s most lethal weapon on offense this season.

Sorichetti spent his first two years as a complimentary player, scoring 15 points his freshman season, then 13 in his sophomore year. But with the departure of last year’s top scorers, Card, Jamie Lincoln and Stephen Bentz, Sorichetti has picked up the pace.

“[He’s an] excellent ballplayer,” said Cannella of Sorichetti. “You got to try to limit him the best you can.”

This season, the junior midfielder leads his team in goals (24), assists (14) and points (38). He’s shown the ability to rack up gaudy numbers in games, as he scored seven goals earlier this season in a win against St. John’s.

“He shoots the ball, he’s got a great release on the shot, [and] he’s a tough kid,” said Cannella.

Sorichetti’s two goals and two assists last time out versus No. 8 North Carolina were not enough to propel Hofstra to a victory, as the Tar Heels won, 12-9.

The Pride nearly pulled off the upset, as they led UNC 9-7 with just 13 minutes and 55 seconds remaining.

However, the Tar Heels scored the final five goals, and ruined any hope for an upset.

Attacker Lance Yapor led the way for Hofstra with four goals, while Mike Malave chipped in a hat trick.

“It’s not just [Sorichetti], he’s surrounded by really good players on his line,” said Cannella.

UMass comes off an 8-6 victory over Drexel, a game that was played in Bethpage, N.Y., at Bethpage High School.

Steve D’Amario and Anthony Biscardi were the team’s leading goal-scorers with a pair of goals apiece.

It was the play of redshirt senior goalie Tim McCormack that earned UMass the win. McCormack stopped 14 shots in the game, a performance that earned him a pair of honors. He first won the team MVP award at the Battle at Bethpage, then was named the CAA Player of the Week.

McCormack has been rock solid in net over the past three games as he’s allowed just 12 goals and made 35 saves.

Junior attacker Will Manny leads the Minutemen in scoring with 55 points, with senior Art Kell (35 points) and junior Kyle Smith (32 points) coming in second and third on the team, respectively.

Tickets for Saturday’s game are still on sale, and can be purchased on Ticketmaster.

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