Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass looks to carry offensive rhythm into matchup with St. Joe’s

Taylor Snow/Collegian

It’s not too often that Will Manny and Kyle Smith aren’t on a lacrosse field together.

The seniors have played on the same attack unit for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team since they were sophomores and have established themselves as one of the best one-two punches in the nation.

However, that bond was broken when Manny was forced to miss five games this season after suffering a broken thumb in the Minutemen’s season-opening win against Army. The offense suffered greatly as a result, averaging just 8.2 goals per game in that stretch, capped off by a three-game losing-streak.

Now the duo is back together and seemingly in full form, combining for seven goals and two assists in UMass’ 13-11 win over Hartford on Saturday. The Minutemen (5-4, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Association) are 2-1 since Manny’s return and have now won two straight games.

“It’s great for those guys, they’ve played together for a long time so to be back together it’s fun for them,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said of Manny and Smith. “This is their senior year and there are five games left so I’m sure it’s enjoyable for them as well.”

The offense may have finally gotten the spark it needed to turn things around after scoring in double-figures for the first time since Feb. 16. The offensive rejuvenation gives the Minutemen more confidence heading into the crucial stretch of conference games to close out the season.

“That definitely felt good to score, no doubt,” Connor Mooney said. “But we gotta just keep working hard, keep doing extra shooting and stuff like that.

“I think (the difference) was just putting it home to be honest,” he added. “We were getting shots every game, we just weren’t putting it in. Kyle did a great job last game of putting it home so that was huge. Hopefully guys just keep stepping up and scoring.”

UMass resumes CAA play Saturday in Philadelphia to take on St. Joseph’s at 1 p.m. The Minutemen dropped their conference-opener March 16 against Penn State as part of their four-game losing-streak, but have reason to feel confident heading into their game against the Hawks (4-6, 0-2 CAA).

UMass has won the team’s two meetings since the CAA’s inception by considerable margins, including last year’s 15-3 beat down at Garber Field. St. Joe’s appears to be playing its worst lacrosse of the season as well, getting blown out in its last two games and losing three of its last four.

However, the Hawks are 3-1 at home so far this season, and the Minutemen are expecting them to come out hungry.

“We know they’re out for blood after we beat them the last couple years so I’m sure they’re gunning for us,” Mooney said.

Due to its four losses so early in the season, UMass is in a position where it will likely need to win the conference tournament in order to get back to the NCAA tournament, making every game from here on out that much more important.

“They’re definitely crucial for sure,” Mooney said. “Conference games are always really important so we definitely gotta come out on top on these next ones.”

Cannella has preached consistency from his team all season long, and the defense and goalkeeping hasn’t disappointed. Zachary Oliveri has an 8.38 goals against average and .583 save percentage in just his first season in the cage for UMass, and has been a key reason why the Minutemen have remained competitive despite offensive struggles.

Cannella is happy now that the offense is slowly coming together again, but knows his team is capable of more and won’t be satisfied until it can get goal-scoring efforts such as last weekend’s on a regular basis.

“Of course, you wish you had 16 or 17,” he said. “Obviously it was a long time coming for us over five games … but yeah it’s good to see those guys break out a bit and hopefully be consistent. That’s what the key is. If you do it once or once every five games, that’s not gonna help you.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.


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