UMass stomps SJU to move to 9-0

By Stephen Sellner

It may have been chilly outside, but the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team cranked up the heat Saturday afternoon with its 15-3 stomping of Saint Joseph’s at Garber Field.

UMass (9-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) didn’t surrender a goal until the final four minutes of play, when the starters had been relieved. Tim McCormack recorded 11 saves in front of the impenetrable defense of Tom Celentani, Jake Smith and Greg Anderson. Will Manny scored three goals on three shots while dishing out five assists to follow up his five goal, two assist performance in Tuesday’s win over Harvard.

With the win, the Minutemen improved to 9-0 for just the third time in school history. It’s the program’s best start since 2001, when the team started the year at 10-0 before finishing with a 12-2 record.

Manny and company aren’t paying attention to the past, but instead treat every game like it’s a separate season.

“We come into every game 0-0 and we have one-game seasons and this is just another conference game that we needed to win,” said Manny. “We won all the non-conference games that we needed to and now it just matters about the conference.”

It was evident from the get-go that UMass had the upper hand over the Hawks (3-6, 0-3 CAA), who failed to win a game last season. The Minutemen scored on three of its first four possessions as part of a dominating opening frame. Art Kell started the rout after rifling a shot past SJU goalie Griffin Ferrigan on a feed from Manny just two minutes, 34 seconds into the contest. Anthony Toresco won the ensuing faceoff and less than a minute later, Steve D’Amario made it 2-0. And after Toresco gave UMass possession once again, Manny found Colin Fleming open in front of the cage, who deposited the easy goal to push the lead to 3-0 with 9:53 remaining in the first.

UMass coach Greg Cannella felt the faceoff game was a huge lift for his team, as Toresco, Joe Calvello and Greg Rushing won a combined 14-of-18 face-offs. Cannella explained that the ability to score and win the ensuing duel, gain possession and continue to play offense helped the Minutemen assert themselves early on.

When SJU was fortunate enough to get possession, the UMass defense refused to let the Hawks attack and get comfortable, pressuring the ball and roughing up the SJU attackmen and midfielders, which forced the Hawks into difficult, contested shots.

“You just see how intense they are and how much they beat up on the attackmen and it’s just great to see them make a stop and then clear the ball, get us the ball and we put the ball in the net,” said Manny.

That was the formula all day long for the Minutemen. The defense forced SJU into a difficult shot, McCormack made saves, passed it ahead to the midfield, which set up UMass on the offensive end. Before too long, the Minutemen lead grew to 15-0.

Anthony Biscardi also had a hat trick for UMass, while Kell, Fleming and Connor Mooney added two goals apiece in the effort.

With the outcome of the game decided, Cannella pulled his starters from the game in favor of younger, inexperienced players to reward them for their hard work in practice and to aid their development. Reed Goodhue relieved McCormack with 10:13 left in the game, collecting two saves while allowing three goals. Meanwhile, freshman Brendan Schroeder scored the first goal of his career with 6:53 left in the contest on a turnaround strike from straight away.

However, the game took a turn for the worse in the fourth quarter as frustration from the Hawks’ side and sloppiness from the inexperienced Minutemen resulted in three penalties for each team in the frame.

“You just don’t want the game to go to that,” said Cannella. “It just chops the game and just turned into an ugly, ugly game.”

Up next for UMass is Senior Day at Garber Field, as the Minutemen play their final home game of the regular season on Saturday afternoon against Towson.

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