McDonough: UMass men’s lacrosse has plenty to prove in 2013

By Cameron McDonough

No matter how you slice it, the 2012 season was a booming success for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team. The Minutemen ascended to the No. 1 ranking, went undefeated during the regular season and won the Colonial Athletic Association.

But despite all of that success, UMass still has plenty to prove in 2013.

Why is that? Well it’s because the Minutemen’s magical season came crashing to an end with a loss against Colgate at Garber Field in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Adding salt to its wounds, UMass received the No. 6 seed in the tournament despite being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.

The reason for the ranking was said to be because of the Minutemen’s strength of schedule (SOS). UMass finished the season with a SOS of 25 and it did not face a single team in the tournament field, according to

That’s why lacrosse experts like ESPN’s Quint Kessenich said they weren’t sure how good the Minutemen actually were.

“It’s still hard to tell how good this team is. Its wins are over teams rated 16, 17, 19, 20 and 27 in the RPI,” Kessenich wrote in his breakdown of UMass’ matchup with the Raiders.

Avenging last year’s loss to Colgate and proving his team’s critics wrong is something that senior attacker Kyle Smith hopes to do this season, despite this being a new team.

“That’s always in the back of your mind,” Smith said. “We always want to prove people wrong, but this is a new team, we tend to focus more on ourselves than other people, but it’s definitely motivation. The team has a chip on its shoulder to get back there and win that game next time.”

Despite what the Minutemen’s doubters were saying, they were good, in fact really good, last year. They had the third ranked scoring offense and defense nationally.

Again, critics would say that was because of the weak schedule, but how much of that is really on UMass?

The Minutemen defeated nationally-ranked Ohio State and Penn State on the road. It’s not their fault that both teams faltered down the stretch and missed the postseason. Also, a usually strong Colonial Athletic Association had an unusual down season last year.

These things were out of UMass’ control and it simply did the best it could with the schedule it was given.

This year, however, the Minutemen, who themselves begin the year ranked No. 13, will have a chance to put together a better SOS with a strong list of opponents. They will face five preseason Top 20 teams including No. 7 North Carolina, No. 18 Bucknell, No. 17 Hofstra, No. 15 Penn State and No. 10 Lehigh.

That schedule provides UMass with multiple opportunities to prove that last year’s regular season was no fluke.

And the opportunity to play a tougher schedule this year is something that Minuteman coach Greg Cannella is anticipating.

“I think it’s a challenge,” Cannella said. “I think when you talk about motivation you’d better be motivated to get ready to play those teams. If you’re not they’re gonna kick the snot out of you. So you got to be ready and hopefully it will get our guys attention more than anything. Obviously we want to put together the best schedule we can for our guys to be competitive and hopefully we can play well throughout the season.”

If UMass can steer its way through this schedule with minimal damage and if the teams they are facing live up to their own hype, there is no question that the Minutemen will have a chance to get back to the playoffs and prove this time that they belong with the elite teams in NCAA men’s lacrosse.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.