Rematch on tap for Minutemen

By Jackson Alexander

For the second straight year, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team faces off against Delaware in the team’s regular-season finale on Saturday.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

UMass (12-0, 5-0 Colonial Athletic Association) will look to tack on another win before the start of the CAA playoffs, when it travels to face the Blue Hens (6-8, 1-4 CAA).

However, the stakes this year aren’t nearly as high as they were in last season’s regular-season finale.

Last April, the 8-4 Minutemen and 9-5 Delaware did battle at Garber Field, in front of UMass’ largest home crowd of the season.

Entering the contest, the Minutemen held fourth place in the conference with a 3-2 record, while the Hens sat in a three-way tie for first place with a 4-1 record.

Both teams had clinched playoff berths, but playoff positioning was yet to be determined.

From UMass, the situation was simple. Win and clinch the No. 3 spot for the playoffs. Lose, and fall to the fourth seed.

On the other hand, the end result for Delaware presented a pair of extremes. If Delaware won, it would propel it to first place in the league, and wear the regular season crown. But a loss would push them all the way back to fourth place in the standings, meaning a first round matchup with the top seed would be imminent.

The Minutemen used a dominating second half performance to beat the Blue Hens, 11-5, and clinch the three seed, while Delaware slid to fourth.

“We had a greater sense of urgency,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella of his team’s win last year. “Remember the week before we got blasted by Hofstra, 14-5, and Delaware was kind of coming in, they knew where they were going to be in for the CAA tournament at that point.”

Unlike a year ago, there will be no intense playoff-jostling this Saturday.

Delaware enters this weekend’s game at the bottom of the CAA standings, a position it won’t dig itself out of. With the loss they suffered last week to Penn State, the Blue Hens are eliminated from playoff contention.

UMass on the other hand, wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the CAA playoffs with a 14-13 win over Hofstra at Gillette Stadium last Saturday.

Delaware has pride and its Senior Night to play for, while the Minutemen would like to keep their record unblemished, and put themselves in the best position for the NCAA tournament, which begins in May 12.

No hard feelings

Just a week after its victory over the Blue Hens last year, UMass had its season ended by Delaware, and with it, its dream of making the NCAA tournament.

On May 7, the Blue Hens marched into Garber Field and shocked the Minutemen, 9-7, in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“We made the plays in the regular season game, they made the plays in the playoff game, that was the difference,” said Cannella.

Based on the way UMass’ season ended, it would not be unreasonable to expect that Cannella and his squad would seek revenge. However, that’s not how Cannella operates.

“What does revenge do for you while you’re playing the game?” asked Cannella. “It might help you during the week, but I don’t think it does anything to you once the whistle blows to start the game,” said Cannella.

While neither team has anything to play for as far as the playoffs are concerned, or even revenge as far as Cannella is concerned, the Minutemen see no difference between Saturday’s game, and the last two pivotal games UMass played.

“I think the way we approach things, every game is a big game, and what we say to our guys is, ‘This is another big game in a season of big games,’” said Cannella.

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