Perfect lax season comes to an end in first round of NCAAs

By Jackson Alexander

Evan Sahagian/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s perfect season and aspirations for making a run in the NCAA tournament came to an end on Saturday afternoon at Garber Field, when the No. 11 seed Colgate upset the No. 6 seed Minutemen, 13-11, in the first round of the tournament.

The Minutemen (15-1) were handed their first loss since June 7, 2011.

Senior Chris Zielinski scored the game-winning goal at the 7:12 mark to put the Raiders (15-3) ahead 12-11, a lead they would not relinquish.

The goal was sandwiched between freshman Ryan Walsh’s game-tying goal at the 8:45 mark of the fourth quarter and junior Peter Baum’s goal to give Colgate a two-goal cushion with three minutes and 53 seconds remaining.

Zielenski, Walsh and Baum led five Raiders with two goals, as junior Matt Baker and sophomore Brendon McCann also scored twice.

The game was close from beginning to end, but Colgate never had control until the fourth quarter.

The Raiders started the final frame trailing 10-9.

Both teams stalled offensively until the 10:25 mark, when Colgate evened the score for just the second time on an unassisted goal from Patrick Campbell.

One minute and 40 seconds later, Anthony Biscardi reclaimed the UMass lead as he ripped a laser beam past the left shoulder of the Raiders’ sophomore goalie Conor Murphy.

It appeared like the last eight minutes and 45 seconds of the game would end exactly like the previous 15 games had; with UMass adding insurance goal after insurance goal, until it built an insurmountable lead.

However, that’s not how the game went as Walsh, Zielinski and Baum scored their unanswered goals, the Colgate defense stiffened, and Murphy dazzled in net, as the clock ran out on UMass’ season.

The surprise of the game occurred before it even began, when the starting lineups were announced and Raiders senior Jared Madison was not in net.

Madison had started all 16 games this season, but Colgate coach Mike Murphy opted to go with the younger, less experienced Murphy in his team’s biggest game of the season.

The move paid off as Murphy, who had played only 57 minutes all season and started zero games, was sublime in the fourth quarter. Three of his 15 saves came in the final six minutes of play, with the Minutemen desperate for goals.

Murphy took some time to get acclimated, as UMass stormed out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter.

Senior Art Kell tallied the first goal, while junior Colin Fleming scored goals two and three of the quarter.

Murphy’s struggles continued in the second quarter as the Minutemen built a 7-2 lead with nine minutes and eight seconds remaining until halftime.

However, the Raiders offense bailed him out as they answered UMass’ 3-0 run with a 3-0 run of their own. They cut the deficit to two, and trailed 7-5 heading to break.

Early in the third quarter, the Minutuemen began to run away with the game. Kell and Steve D’Amario scored the first two goals, to extend UMass’ lead to four.

With its back against the wall, Colgate reeled off four straight goals, to shock the Minutemen and tie the game up at nine with 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Connor Braddish got the rally started with his only goal of the game, while Baker put an end to it to tie the game at nine. McCann and Baum added the other two goals during the stretch.

Anthony Toresco responded with a goal six seconds after Baker’s to make the score 10-9 in UMass’ favor after three quarters.

Colgate was more efficient on offense in the final frame, as it capitalized on four of its eight shots, while the Minutemen were able to score on  just one of their eight attempted shots in the quarter.

Both teams can be credited for executing effective game plans to shut down the other team’s best player.

Junior attacker Will Manny and Baum entered the game as Tewaaraton Award finalists, and both had shown the ability to single-handedly control games. But UMass defender Jake Smith helped limit Baum’s production as he scored just two goals on nine shots, while Bobby Lawrence combined with teammates to shut down Manny, who registered just one goal and assist.

Kell led the way for the Minutemen with a hat trick, Fleming scored two goals and added an assist, and six other UMass players chipped in a goal apiece.

Tim McCormack stopped 13 shots in his only loss of the season.

Colgate moves on to face No. 3 seed Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]