Towson visits UMass on Senior Day

By Jackson Alexander

On Saturday, 11 seniors on the No. 2 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse will play their final regular season game at Garber Field as the Minutemen face Towson on Senior Day.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The class of 2012 features a plethora of impact players on the team, including defenders Greg Anderson, Tom Celentani and Alex Reinhard; midfielders Anthony Biscardi, Steve D’Amario, Mike Fetterly, Greg Rushing, Eric Soto and Anthony Toresco; attacker Art Kell; and goalie Tim McCormack.

This year’s group of seniors has made a huge impact on UMass’ perfect start to the season with Celentani and Anderson being staples on the defensive line. On the offensive side of the ball, Kell, Biscardi and Fetterly are three of UMass’ top six scorers. In between the pipes, McCormack currently ranks third in the nation in goals-against average. Toresco has been successful as well on 63 percent of the 103 face-offs he’s taken this season.

“They’ve made [my job] easier this year,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella of the seniors. “This group in particular has done a great job of leading and keeping what we call critical mass together on a daily basis.”

After blowing out a pair of opponents in its last two games at Garber Field, UMass (9-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) now faces one of its toughest challenges all year with the Tigers.

Towson (6-3, 2-0 CAA) enters the match as winners of its last four games, and most recently defeated then-No. 20 Hofstra in impressive fashion.

The Tigers pulled themselves out of a six-goal fourth quarter deficit and went on to beat the Pride, 10-9, in overtime.

“The way they beat Hofstra … they’re down 9-3 in the fourth quarter and they come back and put it to overtime and win the game, is very impressive,” said Cannella.

Their previous three wins were against Stony Brook, Mercer and Delaware.

“[Towson coach] Shawn Nadelen and his other two new assistants have done a great job bringing that team tighter, closer together and more disciplined,” said Cannella.

Despite the recent success, Towson started the season poorly. It began 1-2, with its two losses coming against then-No. 2 Johns Hopkins and then-No. 13 Loyola. The Tigers dropped those games by a combined score of 25-12.

The Tigers got back on the right foot, however, with a win against Mount Saint Mary’s, but followed that with a loss to Navy. Since the loss to the Midshipmen, they have been flawless.

“Obviously we have to get ready in our own way, but certainly we realize what’s coming here,” said Cannella.

Towson thrived in tightly contested games this season as four of their victories have come by two goals or less. It rarely dominates the opposition as it scores 10 goals per game and allow 9.67 goals per game, and it features no dominant scorer as seven players have between 12 and 21 points.

Sean MaGuire and Thomas DeNapoli lead the team with 21 points apiece, while Matt Hughes (20 points), Matt Lamon (15 points), Justin Mabus (12 points) and Andrew Hodgson (11 points) also contribute.

“I think they’re finding ways to win without that one guy that they’ve got to count on every week, and that’s a good way to go about it if you ask me,” said Cannella.

Cannella lauded over Towson’s midfield, particularly Lamon, Hogdson and DeNapoli

“You have to focus on a lot of guys,” said Cannella. “Regardless if it’s a shortstick or a pole, those guys are coming at you.”

On the other side, UMass comes off a 15-3 thumping of Saint Joseph’s last Saturday at Garber Field.

The stories of that game were defense and junior Will Manny, as the Minutemen didn’t allow a goal until the 3:58 mark of the fourth quarter, and Manny scored eight points (three goals, and five assists) in the contest.

It’s been a magical season for Manny, who was just recently named to Inside Lacrosse’s Midseason First Team.

“[I’ve been] very impressed with his preparation,” said Cannella. “That is the key.”

Cannella also was impressed with Manny’s ability to adapt to defenses devising game plans to slow him. However, no opposing team has been successful yet as he leads the team in just about every offensive statistic. His 29 goals, 19 assists, and 48 points are best on the team by a large margin.

Meanwhile, fellow juniors Kyle Smith and Colin Fleming have aided Manny with breakout seasons. The duo ranks third and fourth on the team in points with 26 and 18, respectively.

Kell currently sits in second place on the team in points (31), while Biscardi and Fetterly each have tallied 17 points.

On the rare occasion when the offense struggles, McCormack’s picked them up. His impressive numbers (6.34 GAA, 63.6 save percentage) have highlighted a successful senior campaign for the lone captain.

At the beginning of the season in the team’s first meeting, Cannella asked the underclassmen to leave so he could speak privately with his seniors.

“We always have the seniors stay and we say ‘what do you want your legacy to be? That’s the question you guy’s should be asking yourself,’” said Cannella.

A 9-0 start to the season, three wins against ranked opponents and a No. 2 rank in the national polls will go a long way in building the legacy Cannella speaks of.

Saturday’s game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

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