First quarter woes sink UMass men’s lacrosse in Grant Whiteway’s return

By Anthony Chiusano

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

When looking at the back-and-forth action in the middle of Saturday’s matchup between the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team and Brown, it is easy to come to the conclusion that it was a tightly contested game until the final whistle.

Trading goals became commonplace between the two teams – at one point the Minutemen and Bears alternated scoring for seven straight goals – and both teams finished the game with 41 shots.

But a lopsided first quarter doomed UMass in its 18-12 defeat Saturday, dropping its record to 0-4 for the season.

Brown scored five unanswered goals to open the game behind a 17-to-5 shot advantage in the first 15 minutes. The Minutemen didn’t find the scoreboard until Ryan Izzo scored with 16 seconds remaining in the first frame.

“Brown took it to us early,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “The first quarter really hurt us. Other than that, it’s a two-goal game.”

One area that contributed to the Minutemen’s early struggles was on the faceoff. Brown won 4-of-6 first period faceoffs, leading to a clear advantage in time of possession.

For the game, UMass lost the faceoff battle 20-to-12, marking the fourth straight time to open the season that it finished on the short side in the category.

“It seemed like we couldn’t string plays together,” Cannella said. “We didn’t win faceoffs again, so that’s been a similar formula for us. You’re trying to hang in there and get back in the game and by being inconsistent on the faceoffs, that’s a tough thing to do.”

Two of the Bears’ faceoff wins immediately led to goals off of rushes down the field.

After Henry Blynn opened the scoring four minutes, 35 seconds into the game, Dylan Molloy quickly scored just 10 seconds later. Then after Nick Piroli extended the lead to three with 7:11 remaining, Kyler Bellistri continued Brown’s quick attack with a goal 45 seconds after the ensuing faceoff.

“We started off really slow,” said Gianni Bianchin, who finished with two goals Saturday. “It made us have to play catch-up the rest of the game.”

The Minutemen were able to cut into the Bears’ lead coming out of the first intermission, making it a three-score game on several occasions in the second and third quarters. But Brown maintained its lead behind a balanced effort from Molloy (seven goals), Blynn (four) and Bellistri (three).

“Every time we made a step (forward), we made a step back,” Cannella said. “It’s about being consistent and trying to make plays at the right time.”

Whiteway returns in loss

Grant Whiteway returned to UMass’ lineup Saturday with a hat trick after missing the first three games with a lower-body injury.

The Minutemen’s third-leading scorer from last season, Whiteway came off the bench to play significant minutes in the loss. The senior finished with three goals on an efficient three shots on goal.

“There was a sense of urgency for Grant and you can see how fired up he was to get back on the field to contribute to the team,” Cannella said. “Guys like that, lacrosse means a lot to him and when he’s out hurt, he feels like he’s not giving anything to the team.”

Whiteway said that it was a relief to be back on the field and added that he hopes to carry over Saturday’s success into the rest of the season.

“It was awesome to get back out there,” Whiteway said. “I just have to keep finishing on opportunities. My teammates set me up a few times and it’s my job to finish the ball when I get a chance.”

UMass next travels to Albany next Saturday in an attempt to earn its first victory of 2015 against the No. 7 Great Danes.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.