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 lacrosse looks to bounce back against No. 5 North Carolina

(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)
(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)

After suffering a season-opening defeat to No. 20 Army 12-7, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team will look to earn its first win of the year against No. 5 North Carolina Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Despite facing their second ranked opponent in its second game, Coach Greg Cannella said the number next to a team’s name does not intimidate his squad.

“I don’t think the rankings really mean anything in preseason,” Cannella said, referring to the fifth-ranked Tar Heels. “But hopefully it prepares us for what lies ahead with the rest of the schedule. Everybody on our schedule can beat us, and we can beat everybody.

“When you play a tough schedule typically early in the year, I think we always do, this year is no different. We want to be able to have those guys feel relaxed playing and be confident going into the contest.”

“Every week is a tough game no matter who you play,” Sophomore Nick Mariano said. Mariano, who recorded a hat trick and an assist in the opening game versus the Black Knights, said the team needs to “take it one game at a time and hope for the best.”

For this weekend, UMass will have to be at their best defensively against UNC, which has exploded for 34 goals in its first two games of the season.

Led by senior Jimmy Bitter, who has tallied seven goals and four assists so far, the Tar Heels are tied for third best scoring offense in the nation and are averaging 17 goals per game. Cannella knows it will be a major task trying to slow down UNC’s high-octane attack.

“They’re really athletic, and great at getting the ball from the defensive end into the offensive end,” he said. “Early offense is fantastic between Bitter and (Joey) Sankey and (Luke) Goldstock, that’s their starting attack.”

“All the defensive midfielders that they play were offensive guys in high school, so they all want a piece of it. They haven’t even played three of their top midfielders in the first two games.”

Mariano knows it will take a full team effort to keep the game within reach, especially considering the firepower the Tar Heels bring to the table offensively.

“I think we just gotta have a great time of possession,” Mariano said. “Face-offs are a big key for our game, and if we win them, we usually keep the ball for long periods of time. We just gotta get the groundballs as much as we can and try to out-tough them.”

While there weren’t many positives to take out of their opening defeat, the Minutemen will have to take the fight they showed in the second half of that game and apply it to this weekend’s contest.

“We kept playing as the game went along. You’re down 7-3 and 11-3, and it winds up 12-7,” Cannella said. “You’re fairly even in the second half in terms of scoring, so with a team especially like North Carolina, you have to be able to withstand a knockout punch, because it’s coming.

“Hopefully you settle into a game where you feel confident you can play in and play well the rest of the game. This is a real powerful team on offense, and they’re solid defensively, so the same challenges that were presented to us against Army will be present again this weekend.”

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

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