UMass lacrosse forges on with youthful roster

By Jason Kates

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

For the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, the balance between underclassmen and upperclassmen is severely lopsided.

With only 12 roster spots belonging to juniors and seniors, four of which are redshirts, the 0-2 Minutemen lack in the area of experience after going through a difficult offseason in which several players left the program.

After bringing in a class of 12 freshmen, seven of which were All-Americans in high school, coach Greg Cannella said the perception that his team is going through a rebuild is not intentional, and that contributions from upperclassmen at this level of play is paramount to success.

“We had two seniors that quit the team, a couple juniors quit, so it’s not on purpose,” he said. “If you want to compete in Division I, you can’t compete with just freshmen and sophomores. You need upperclassmen.”

Entering his 21st year as head coach in Amherst, Cannella pointed to UMass’ first two opponents as teams who are prime examples that having older players leads to success.

“Just take a look at what (North Carolina) had and what (Army) had, how well their seniors played for them,” he said.

“You can count on those guys with that much experience, you can’t really count on these younger guys day in and day out. They need to help push the team, but you can’t say, ‘Hey we’re gonna win this thing with freshmen.’ It’s not going to work out that way.”

While UMass does have an abundance of youth talent, Cannella has made it a point that he will not be putting any extra pressure on the freshmen class, and wants them to fill the roles they are given.

“Just the inexperience that they have, you don’t want to put too much pressure on their shoulders,” he said. “You hope that your seniors, your juniors, and even your sophomores can carry the load.”

Cannella singled out Peter Lindley and Buddy Carr as freshmen that have already made contributions to the team, combining for six goals and three assists in the first two games of the season. He also mentioned Dom St. Laurent and Noah Rak, who took the majority of face-offs in the second half of the game last weekend versus No. 6 North Carolina.

Aware of the importance of contributions from players like himself, Lindley understands the necessity of gaining experience as the season goes on.

“It’s good to get some college experience because it’s a lot different from high school,” he said. “The teams are a lot better and the opponents are more prepared for you so it’s good to get experience and continue to get better.

“Every time I get the chance to get on the field, I just try to do my best to contribute for the team, play my roles, and help the team try to win games,” he added. “We’re obviously young with most of our players, we have a lot of sophomores playing and freshmen, but the upperclassmen are doing their jobs and they’re still contributing.”

Carr agreed when asked about the impact the older players are having on the underclassmen.

“They’re great mentors,” he said. “They’ve easily taken us under their belts and shown us what we have to do and correct us when mess up and are leading us in the right direction.”

Despite earning more experience as the Minutemen get deeper into the season, Cannella does not anticipate any role changes for his freshmen class.

“I think their roles will be the same,” he said. “We’re asking them to do a lot already, throwing freshmen out there at face-offs 20 times, that’s a lot. To ask those guys to play midfield on regular shifts, that’s asking a lot.”

“We’re going to continue to ask of them what we’ve been asking of them, and that’s basically get ready to play, be ready to play, and prepare the right way.”

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @Jason_Kates.