UMass lacrosse looks for fourth straight victory versus Towson

By Jason Kates

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

The start of the season for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was a forgettable one.

UMass started the season losers of its first five, but since then, the Minutemen have looked like an entirely different team, having won their last three contests all by multiple goals.

Win number four will be no easy task for UMass when it travels to 18th ranked Towson this Saturday with an opportunity to gain leverage in the always tough Colonial Athletic Association conference.

Coming off a 9-7 victory this past weekend versus Hofstra, the Minutemen (3-5, 1-0 CAA) have scored 39 goals in their last three games, 18 of which came during UMass’ victory over Quinnipiac on March 10.

This time, however, the Minutemen will be tasked with facing a stingy Tigers (6-3) defense that ranks fourth in the nation in goals allowed per game (7.33)

Led by senior goalkeeper Tyler White, who has the ninth-best save percentage (.568) in the country, the Towson defense holds its opponents to an average of only 31 shots per game.

Head coach Greg Cannella knows it will be crucial that his team cashes in when the opportunities present themselves.

“They’re very well-coached on defense,” Cannella said. “Their coach, Shawn Nadelen, was a world team player as a defenseman, and was a real tough guy when he played in college and for the world team.

“That’s what makes it so hard, they are so fundamentally sound defensively and have a great stopper.”

With such a great team defensively, it doesn’t take many goals to win games for the Tigers. Scoring an average of 8.44 goals per game, Towson is dependent upon the foursome of Joe Seider, Ryan Drenner, Spencer Parks and Andrew Hodgson, who have combined for 84 of the team’s 113 points. It has reached double-digits in goals just twice, while the Minutemen have reached this feat four times.

“(Towson) puts six guys out there and they’re all excellent, so it’s going to be a challenge for our defense and goalie,” Cannella said. “They’re a fast starting team, they’ve scored 28 goals in the first quarter, which is 10 more than any other quarter. It’s a style of play, when they get up they’ll try and slow down the tempo of the game a little bit.”

Cannella recalled two matchups between the teams last season and two years ago, which both ended with Towson coming out on top.

“Last year it was a 6-5 game at our place when they beat us, a couple years ago it was 2-1 at halftime and they wound up beating us 9-5,” he said. “They’re a very talented group, so it won’t be easy.”

With the winning streak the UMass is currently on, it could be said having the toughest schedule in all of Division I lacrosse has helped the team develop, especially since its first win didn’t come until the sixth game of the season.

“I think every game helps you grow, whether you win or you lose, because you learn something within each game,” Cannella said. “The fact that we lost the first five games, I think you give our guys credit for not pointing the finger and going through this together as a group.”

Heading into this weekend, Cannella believes it is too soon to tell whether or not his team is hitting their stride at the right time, but acknowledged the efforts they have put into becoming better.

“I guess that’s probably to be determined,” he said. “Again, this group has hung together, stuck together and enjoy the process of working together every day and going out and playing as a team.”

Opening faceoff will take place at noon on Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland.

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