Smith leads resurgent UMass offense

By Cameron McDonough

Cade Belisle/Collegian

After failing to reach 10 or more goals in six-straight games, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s offense came back to life last Saturday thanks to a career day from Kyle Smith.

The senior attackman produced a single-game career best with six goals during the Minutemen’s 13-11 win over Hartford on the road.

Smith’s performance was a welcomed sight for UMass coach Greg Cannella.

“(He was) a huge part (of that game),” Cannella said. “You feel good about that because not only the offense, Kyle, everybody works hard so you like to see them succeed. He had a great day shooting, and obviously we need him to do that to be a good team.”

Before Smith’s big game, the Minutemen had averaged just under six goals per game in their last six contests, going 2-4 during that stretch.

One of the key contributing factors for UMass’ offensive struggles was its inability to finish off quality scoring opportunities.

But that all changed on Saturday as things finally went right again for the Minutemen offense.

“We moved the ball better, we got in and out of offenses better, and our stick skills were better,” Smith said. “We passed and caught the ball better. So, it’s as easy as that and when we do that stuff right then the ball goes in the net easily.”

As for his own personal performance, Smith said that he was changing up his shot during the game and was “shooting the ball well.” He also said that he should have scored on the two shots he missed.

Smith also scored at important points of Saturday’s game with four of his goals coming in the second half of a very close affair. Smith was also the only one to score in the fourth quarter as his two goals assured UMass’ second-straight win. He now leads the Minutemen in both goals (18) and points (25). He also has seven assists.

UMass also had another thing going for it Saturday. After missing extended time due to injury, both Colin Fleming and Will Manny were back and healthy for a third-straight game.

The Minutemen were able to win their season opener against Army without Fleming and defeated then-No. 4 North Carolina without Manny. Fleming was reinjured in the game against the Tar Heels, and the pair would both miss the next four games due to their injuries.

UMass was able to pull out a win in its first game without both offensive threats against Harvard, but without reaching double-digits in goals.

The Minutemen then lost the next three games without the pair. And when they came back, the offensive continued to struggle despite their 6-4 win against Lehigh on March 20.

That win was also a big day for Manny offensively as he scored a hat trick. 

“We had a few games that didn’t go our way. We played some good teams, lost some close games, (and) didn’t shoot the ball that well,” Smith said about the tough offensive stretch UMass had without Manny and Fleming.

Smith was forced to step up even more than he had during his breakout junior season during that stretch, especially as a leader.

“Especially with the injuries this year, he had to be a better leader out there on the field, more of a field general for us,” Cannella said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he brings a lot to the table in terms of how he leads by example on the field and off the field.”

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