Minutemen beat Drexel, claim share of top spot

By Jackson Alexander

Regardless of the opposition or the venue, the No. 1/2 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team just keeps winning.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Minutemen defeated Drexel, 8-6, on Saturday, at Bethpage High School in the Battle of Bethpage II. They improved their record to a perfect 11-0, the best mark in UMass men’s lacrosse history.

Anthony Biscardi and Steve D’Amario led the Minutemen (11-0, 4-0 CAA) with two goals apiece, in a game that was dominated by both defenses and goalies.

“It was unbelievable feeling” said Biscardi, the Wantagh, N.Y., native, who got to experience a homecoming. “I grew up playing here, my whole family was here and they’ve been watching me play since I was little.”

Minuteman goalkeeper Tim McCormack stopped 14 shots, a performance that earned him team MVP honors.

“He’s been consistent all year, and we hope that maintains,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella.

As solid as McCormack was in the match, it was the offense that kicked into gear when UMass needed it most.

At the end of three quarters, the Minutemen held a 4-3 advantage over the Dragons. Both teams were sloppy on the offensive end, and it appeared that the next goal or two would determine the outcome of the game.

Biscardi explained that the Dragons’ sent two long-stick defenders up top, which hindered their ability to score.

“We weren’t finishing well,” said Biscardi.

However, the game turned into a shootout in the fourth quarter, as both team’s began capitalizing on their opportunities.

With 12 minutes, one second remaining, Drexel tied the game at four, on a goal from Andrew Vivian.

After the goal, both teams locked in defensively and a five-minute goal drought ensued.

However, at the 6:50 mark, UMass scored its first goal first goal since the opening minutes of the second half to retake a 5-4 lead.

The Minutemen scored the goal on the man advantage, when Drexel’s Ben McIntosh was whistled for a cross-check. Colin Fleming recorded the goal for UMass, as he launched a lengthy one-bounce rocket that eluded the Dragon’s goalkeeper.

“That was huge, it really sparked us,” said Biscardi of the goal. “He’s got a cannon from there, so once he wound it up, I knew it was going in.”

The Minutemen won the ensuing faceoff, played keep-away from the Drexel defenders in an attempt to run the clock, then found the back of the net at the 5:20 mark.

It was the senior D’Amario who notched the goal for UMass on a feed from fellow senior linesmate Mike Fetterly, to put his team up 6-4.

Despite the two-goal cushion, the Dragons got themselves back into the game, when they cut the deficit to one, with 1:38 seconds left.

However, Anthony Toresco won the vital faceoff that followed the goal, and Mooney scored with 56 seconds left, to put the game out of reach.

“We were able to finish in the fourth quarter which was what you need to do in tight games,” said Cannella.

Biscardi tacked on UMass’ final goal just second later, than the Dragon’s Nick Saputo scored, but it was too late, as Saputo’s goal would be the game’s final.

The teams combined for seven fourth-quarter goals, the same number scored over the first three quarters of the game.

Aaron Prosser was the only Drexel player to score more than one goal, as he tallied two in the game. All six of the Dragon’s goals were unassisted.

Opposite McCormack was Drexel goalkeeper Mark Manos, who made eight saves, and kept his team in the game on a number of occasions with impressive stops.

“Manos made some great saves today,” said Cannella.

UMass came out of the gates slowly, as it was outscored 2-0 in the first quarter.

However, 20:16 seconds into the game, the team found the back of the net as D’Amario put the Minutemen on the board.

Minutes later, UMass knotted the score at two when Will Manny scored on an assist from senior defender Tom Celentani. The point was Celentani’s first since April 24, 2010, when he recorded an assist versus Georgetown.

The teams each scored one goal in the remainder of the half, to make the score 3-3 entering break.

The third quarter was even sloppier offensively than the first as Minuteman Greg Rushing scored the sole goal of the quarter at the 13:55 mark.

“Rush is just a hustler,” said Cannella. “He’s the guy that will get the hard groundball that we need at the end of the game. He’s a guy that will do anything for the success of the team.”

UMass will look to add to its perfect record next Saturday when it plays Hofstra at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. start.

Tie at the top

After the Minutemen defeated Drexel, most speculated that UMass would make the jump to the top team in the nation after then-No. 1 Virginia suffered a defeat to No. 7 Duke on Saturday.

Instead, UMass finds itself in a tie for the top spot in the USILA poll and No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse poll.

“You should be – and we are – concerned with where you are at the end of the year, not right now,” said Cannella after the win over the Dragons.

Loyola Maryland played the role of spoiler, as the Greyhounds defeated then-No. 8 Denver on Saturday, to leapfrog the Minutemen.

“We don’t really pay attention to the rankings, we like to prepare for what we have ahead of us,” said Biscardi.

However, they do still share a hold of the top spot in one ranking, and with that comes added attention.

“It’s a number on your name, and it’s a bigger target on your back,” said McCormack.

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