UMass men’s lacrosse blows late lead in 14-13 loss to Harvard on Saturday

By Nicholas Casale

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

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team appeared to be on its way to its first victory of the season Saturday, holding a 13-10 lead with five minutes, 35 seconds left in its matchup with No. 12 Harvard.

But four unanswered Crimson goals later, the Minutemen once again found themselves on the short end of a 14-13 defeat, falling to 0-3 for the season.

Sean McDonagh’s unassisted goal with 2:15 remaining capped Harvard’s 4-1 run in the final quarter and proved to be the deciding score. Deke Burns added seven goals for the Crimson, including the tying score with 3:35 left.

“We knew we had to contend with their top guys and not allow them to have chances,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “I actually felt like we were able to take out a couple of their top attackers, but by doing that, it meant that the rest of the chances fell to Deke.

“Obviously he’s a great player and he was able to take his chances well
when they were presented to him.”

Harvard opened Saturday’s scoring five minutes into the opening period, but UMass responded less than a minute later with the first-career goal from freshman midfielder, Dom St. Laurent. Brendan Hegarty, Nick Mariano and Gianni Bianchin each added tallies to give the Minutemen a 4-2 lead after one.

“Going into this game, we wanted to focus on keeping our energy levels high and to come out and play aggressively, which is obviously something we need to keep improving on,” Cannella said. “But I thought that the game was really up-and-down and that it was played with a lot of enthusiasm by both sides.”

The Minutemen entered the final period with a 12-10 advantage after the two teams traded goals over the middle two frames, putting their first victory of 2015 within reach.

UMass extended its lead 27 seconds out of the break on a goal from Peter Lindley. The momentary three-goal difference was the largest margin any team held during the game.

Although the Minutemen played against a nationally ranked Crimson team in snowy conditions, Cannella said there were no excuses for the loss and bluntly laid the blame on the coaching staff and team as a whole.

“We couldn’t hold possession of the ball when we had it and I thought we gave it away too easily,” Cannella said. “It was really poor game management by all of us. The coaching staff, the squad and myself are all responsible for this loss.”

Before the season started, Cannella told the Collegian that the young team was inevitably going to face adversity in its early schedule against tough nonconference opponents.

“The season is unique in that is really is a sprint and a marathon,” Cannella said in late January.

But at the moment, UMass’ early struggles aren’t a result of the players being burnt out. Rather, the Minutemen’s difficulties have come from failing to take care of the ball and capitalize on its chances against the nation’s elite.

Cannella encouraged his team not to get frustrated and said the only way to break the duck is by improving so that they can win next week.

“It’s tough to lose the first three games, but you can either put your head between your legs and whine or you can carry on and fix the problem,” Cannella said.

The Minutemen return home next Saturday when they face Brown at 1 p.m.

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