Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sellner: Lack of student support for No. 2 UMass lax

By Stephen Sellner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

My friends aren’t the most intense UMass sports fans. In fact, they’re not quite interested attending the school’s sporting events at all.

However for the most part, they seem to know how good some of their teams are doing, whether it’s the men’s basketball team’s run to the National Invitational Tournament a few weeks ago or the hockey team knocking off Boston College – a team that would become national champions – twice at the Mullins Center this season.

But there’s one team neither they nor the rest of the student body seem to know about: the No. 2 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team.

It’s clear the student body is hungry for UMass sports to be on the map again as it was in the 90s when Marcus Camby led the basketball program towards the pinnacle of the sport. Yet they don’t seem to relish in the fact that coach Greg Cannella’s squad is a legitimate national-title contender.

As I pondered why this might be, a few things jumped out at me that may explain the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the team that the men’s basketball and hockey teams are fortunate enough to receive on most nights.

Very few students understand the rules of lacrosse

Prior to coming to UMass, my only sample of lacrosse was my brother’s high school varsity team, which (no offense to him) wasn’t played at a very high level. I couldn’t grasp the basic concepts of the sport while watching his games, such as how the offensive team could get the ball back after its shot went out-of-bounds.

But when I went to my first UMass lacrosse game, I knew this would be a different type of learning experience. I was blown away by the crisp passing, bone-crushing open-field hits and strategy involved towards attacking the goal. I used to think the sport was filled with a bunch of guys running around like chickens with their heads cut off while shooting the ball on goal every once in a while. Clearly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The rest of the UMass student body is likely in the same boat that I was not too long ago. They probably think, ‘Why would I watch a sport that I don’t know the rules of?’ And to them, I respond that part of going to college is learning new things and being exposed to different experiences in order to find out what your true interests and passions are.

Had I not attended a single UMass lacrosse game, I likely would’ve continued to bark about how baseball and softball were the only spring sports worth noting. However, the fact of the matter is that the Minutemen are competing against some of the best teams the country has to offer and not only are they winning, they’re destroying the opposition in the process. In fact, the team’s starters have earned early rests over the last two contests as UMass has outscored its opponents 29-6 in its most recent victories over conference foes Saint Joseph’s and Towson.

While it may take a game or two to grasp the basic concepts of the sport, winning is something that every sports fan can identify with and root on. And while watching the game, students will realize there are components of a wide range of sports incorporated into lacrosse. Watching Anthony Biscardi lay out an opponent trying to clear the ball in lacrosse looks a lot like Ray Lewis punishing a running back releasing from the backfield going out for a pass in football. Seeing the crisp ball movement of Will Manny, Art Kell and Kyle Smith looks an awful lot like Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan dissecting a zone defense in basketball.

While some of the rules are hard to interpret right away, there’s plenty for sports fans to like when watching UMass lacrosse.

The time of UMass’ games

As most college student can attest to, sleeping in on Saturday mornings is a golden opportunity to catch up on their lack of rest during the week. So why would students give up their precious sleep time to watch a lacrosse game?

Students may be surprised to find that there’s a way to do both. They can recover from their long and eventful Friday nights by sleeping until around noon, getting lunch at the dining commons and then heading to Garber Field for a 1 p.m. start.

After all, what else is there to do on a Saturday afternoon? Some students may hide behind the fact that they have homework to do, but as most UMass students can attest to, schoolwork typically is left to complete on Sunday nights.

So instead of sitting around waiting to kick off the Saturday night festivities, take in a UMass lacrosse game for two hours. Students may be surprised how much they enjoy it. And with the Minutemen off to their best start in program history, this could be the opportunity students are looking for to watch UMass athletics get back on the map.

While college lacrosse doesn’t receive nearly as much hype as other college sports, this might be the best chance students have of watching a UMass team claim some of the glory that Kentucky captured in basketball this March and Alabama did in football this fall.

The Minutemen, unfortunately, don’t play on their home turf again until the Colonial Athletic Association playoffs, in which the team will likely earn a home game as one of the top two seeds in the conference. But with the intensity mounting game-by-game, UMass could be headed down an exciting path towards an NCAA title and students have the opportunity to join the ride.

Who knows? Maybe my friends will even come along.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.

 

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