Defensive struggles hurt the Minutemen early in 2015

By Nicholas Casale

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

If the saying, “The best offense is a good defense,” has any truth to it, then it can be applied to the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, the offense (and all things good that come from attacking players) has yet to find its form, which means the defense has been put under intense pressure and has suffered because of it.

Before UMass kicked off the season, one of the main goals set forth by players and coaches was to not allow more than seven goals per game. Notwithstanding, the Minutemen have given up a total of 32 goals (12 against Army, 20 against the University of North Carolina) in just two games – but the blame can’t entirely be put on the defense.

Greg Cannella, the Minutemen head coach, spoke to the Collegian after a loss to Army, identifying what he saw as the problem.

“In our sport, you’re not going to win many games if you don’t win face-offs, or take care of the ball in possession,” he said.

The lack of possession, offensive production and poor success ratio on face-offs was a similar theme in the game against UNC on Saturday, to which Cannella responded, “We didn’t win face-offs early in the game again, similar to last week. We hung in there and our guys fought hard and hustled, but our execution needs to be a little bit better on the offensive end and like I mentioned, they’re stringing goals together and we’re not getting the ball back.”

If the Minutemen are to turn their recent misfortunes around, then the team must do a better job possessing the ball and creating opportunities in the offensive end, which will take the pressure off the defense. But planning for change in the future and effectively executing the game plan against quality teams is an altogether different challenge.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that UNC and Army were both ranked teams with potent attacking players, the likes of which the Minutemen defense won’t have to contend with every week.

The bright sides of things, however, suggest that these problems can be overcome in time, as it is only the third week of the season and the young players on the team have enough talent to turn the tide.

UMass will return to action this Saturday at 3 p.m. when it takes on Harvard University in Cambridge.

Nicholas Casale can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @NicholasLCasale