Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Kates: Ranking a positive sign for UMass lacrosse moving forward

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Being ranked in any collegiate sport is a major milestone. It’s an accomplishment that only 20 to 25 teams in the country can say they have achieved.

This accomplishment should motivate the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team as it heads into its first conference game this weekend against Colonial Athletic Association foe Delaware.

Coming off wins against ranked opponents like North Carolina (then-No. 10) and Penn State (No. 20), the Minutemen (4-4) found themselves ranked 18th in Inside Lacrosse’s Top 20 poll. After a week off, UMass still remains in the top 20, checking in at No. 19 in the nation.

In an article on March 23, however, Minutemen coach Greg Cannella was quick to dismiss his team’s latest feat.

“I think people who are doing that have no idea who you are or who the team is,” Cannella said. “I think it is more important to focus on yourself and not get caught up in that stuff.”

While Cannella makes a number of valid points, on the flip side of the coin his team is getting recognized as one of the premier teams in Division I lacrosse.

It’s also good for the entire athletics department here at UMass.

With the exception of the women’s lacrosse team and the men’s basketball team back in 2013, there has not been much success in Amherst, which is why this ranking should be embraced by the entire athletic community.

The Minutemen’s success is bringing fans back to Garber Field in a big way. At the March 12 game against UNC, attendance was 1,563, the highest total at a home game since 2013, when 1,623 flocked to Garber to watch UMass defeat the Blue Hens 16-8.

Taking a glance at UMass’ schedule, it’s easy to get caught up in two things. One, the losses to then-No. 14 Harvard and 15th ranked Albany, and two, the wins against Ohio State, the Tar Heels and the Nittany Lions. With the exception of the loss to the Crimson in which the Minutemen squandered a three-goal lead and a 16-4 blowout to the Great Danes, UMass has proven it can compete with some of the top teams in the nation with its latest two victories.

Looking ahead, the Minutemen have five games remaining, all conference matchups while three of the five are away from friendly confines. Starting Saturday at Delaware, UMass will alternate between home and away contests, culminating its regular season in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania against conference rival Drexel on April 29.

Because of lucky scheduling for the Minutemen, they will be on their own turf when they face No. 8 Towson on April 9 and Hofstra, which is receiving votes, on April 23. The Minutemen hold a 3-2 record at home this year, showing what it is capable of when playing in front of their own fans.

With a week off between games, Cannella said a midseason break was needed after the game in Chapel Hill.

“We practiced hard last week and challenged our guys to be really good mentally and to focus on us and on what’s important,” he said. “We took the time to do that and hopefully it works out.”

As conference play gets set to begin and the Minutemen look to remain in the rankings, Cannella acknowledged the self-awareness needed by the team to keep their momentum going.

“You know the second you start thinking you’re good someone is going to knock you down,” he said.

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @JKates1216.

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