Minutemen look to clinch postseason berth Friday night

By Jason Kates

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

Last year, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team ended the season with four consecutive losses, leaving it outside of the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament.

This year, the Minutemen will look to avoid a similar fate when they take on last-place Delaware Friday night at Garber Field in hopes of cementing a spot in postseason play.

Following a 12-9 victory over Drexel last weekend, UMass (4-8, 2-2 CAA) is third in the conference due to a head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Dragons and Hofstra (the Minutemen defeated the Pride March 21), who also hold 2-2 records in conference play.

Playing at home under the lights is something coach Greg Cannella would like to think gives his team an advantage over the Blue Hens (4-10, 0-4 CAA), who are in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

“You hope it plays into your favor, but that all depends on how our guys come out to play,” Cannella said. “Home-field is good only if you take advantage of it.”

Defender Kevin Porzelt agreed with his coach, citing the last time out at Garber Field as a major boost both physically and emotionally.

“Playing at (Garber) is a special thing, we’ve only played there once this year and you saw what happened,” he said. “The excitement, the energy, the fans are great, so we wanna come out and play at a high level and get a win for everyone who supports UMass lacrosse.”

Porzelt and the rest of the defensive corps will have to play their best in this one, as they will be tasked with containing the Delaware trio of Beau Jones, Brian Kormondy and Tom Holland. In last year’s 15-7 victory over the Minutemen, the three were responsible for eight goals and five assists.

Having combined for 102 points this season, Cannella is aware of how crucial it is to stop the trio of seniors from gaining any offensive momentum.

“Those guys are beasts, all of them,” he said. “(Kormondy) is a jet, Beau (Jones) leads the team in assists and is a big boy, as well as Holland. Those guys kicked our butts last year down in Delaware, so it’s a tough chore to slow them down and we’re gonna have to do the best we can.”

When asked how they can prevent this threesome from controlling the game, Porzelt believes it will be about playing as a cohesive unit defensively and covering each other’s backs when on the defensive end.

“Supporting the guys who are covering those players, you know Austin (Spencer), Bob (Fahey) and Kyle (Karaska),” Porzelt said. “Those guys have done great jobs on top guys all year, so as a defense helping them and packing it in and doing anything to help them out will be key.”

In the meeting between the last two teams, UMass was slow out of the gate, giving up the first six goals of the game, including five in the opening quarter.

This time, Porzelt hopes it will be a different story.

“It’ll be extremely important,” he said regarding the significance of a fast start. “It’s always important, especially against a good offensive team like Delaware. They like to push the tempo and get early offense, so I think face-offs are gonna be important, as well as controlling the possession and taking high quality shots.

“The games that we haven’t gotten off to a good start we’ve struggled, other than the Penn State game,” Cannella added. “Every game you play you wanna get off to a good start, it just helps the offense.”

With eight different scenarios in play, the Minutemen can earn either the first, third or fourth seed, and could even slide into the postseason with a loss. Because there are so many possible outcomes, it is easy for teams to have one eye on their game and the other on another.

For Cannella and the rest of the UMass team, there’s only one scenario: Win and in.

“We preach each week that you have to live in the now and forget about what’s gonna happen on Sunday,” he said. “If you focus on what may happen in the future, you’re not gonna take care of the present, and the present is Delaware, and preparing the right way.”

Senior Night to take place Friday

Before the game, the 2015 senior class will be honored for their commitment to the program the last four or five years.

The players being acknowledged will be Peter Von Rosenvinge, Ryan Izzo, Grant Whiteway, Brendan Schroeder, Andrew Sokol and Chas Robino. With only six members in the graduating class, the Minutemen boast the ninth-smallest senior class in all of Division I.

Porzelt hopes the team can send these guys out on top.

“It’s great to give the seniors their last chance to make some noise and hopefully win a CAA championship for them in their senior year,” he said. “If we go out and execute and play at a high level I think we have a great chance of winning Friday night.”

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