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 hurt by poor defense and goalkeeping in loss to Drexel

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

There’s no question that goal scoring has been at the heart of the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s struggles this season.

Each week UMass has battled to reach the 10-goal mark offensively and has continually come up short, only reaching double-figures three times in its first 11 games.

But the Minutemen have always had defense on their side. Heading into Saturday’s contest against No. 17 Drexel, the defense had been among the Colonial Athletic Association’s best, holding opponents to single-digits in all but three occasions this season and keeping UMass within striking distance in games where the offense has appeared inept.

But on Saturday the roles were reversed. While the offense came up big with 14 goals, it was the defense that failed the Minutemen (5-7, 0-4 CAA) in a 15-14 loss at Garber Field.

“We’re not able to put it together out there on the field — offense, defense,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “When we’re not scoring the defense is playing great. (Saturday) we scored, defense didn’t play great.”

The Dragons (9-3, 4-1 CAA) took a whopping 45 shots in the game (31 on goal), as they had little trouble working the ball down towards the crease for quality looks at the net. Many of the Minutemen’s defensive lapses came at key moments in the game. They allowed Drexel runs of four goals and three goals, including a fourth-quarter rally that put the Dragons up for good.

Much of the defensive struggles can be attributed to poor goalkeeping, as well. Zachary Oliveri struggled in the net, allowing seven goals and making just five saves in the first half, prompting Cannella to make the switch to backup Reed Goodhue.

“I think (Oliveri) just lacked energy it seemed like, not typical of what we’ve seen of him in the first 11 games,” Cannella said.

The 19-year coach was looking to spark his team when he called upon Goodhue, but got mixed results in return.

The junior had some strong moments, making 11 saves, including some big ones against quality shots. But he also allowed eight goals, including a pair of soft ones he would probably like to have back.

With 7 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Frank Fusco took a shot from the top of the box that slowly one-hopped towards the goal. Goodhue failed to get his stick on it and the game was tied at 10-10. Goodhue was also caught out of his crease for a goal earlier in the quarter.

Despite the inconsistencies, Cannella was happy with the way Goodhue responded when his number was called.

“He was excellent,” Cannella said. “We know Reed is always ready to play and that’s why we put him in there. It was good for him to go in there and lead courageously and make some saves for us and clear the ball for us. He works as hard as anybody on this team everyday so we needed a spark and he provided it for us.”

Kyle Smith agreed, saying, “Reed is behind a very good goalie in Zach and Zach wasn’t having his best day so coach thought it would be better to put Reed in. I thought Reed was awesome in there. He’s a great kid, he works hard everyday so he definitely deserves it.”

Competition brewing

Oliveri’s starting spot in goal has always appeared to be a sure thing throughout the season. But after he faltered against the CAA’s top-rated offense on Saturday, a goalie competition could be ignited in practice for the right to start against Hofstra next weekend.

While it’s almost a given that the stakes will be higher for the two goalies this week, Cannella deflected the idea of a new competition forming.

“I think it’s a competition every day,” he said. “With all your players you want to try to let them know that you’re confident in them. (Former UMass coach Dick) Garber used to say this all the time, he’d say, ‘If you believe in you, I believe in you’ and that’s the same thing with our players.”

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

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