Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s lacrosse welcomes No. 15 Albany to Garber Field Tuesday

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Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian)

(Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian)

The story so far for the 2016 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse season is one of quick turnarounds and challenging opponents through the first three weeks. Another chapter will be added to this story Tuesday when UMass hosts No. 15 Albany at Garber Field.

The Minutemen (2-3) enter the game fresh off their worst defeat of the season in a 15-7 loss courtesy of No. 7 Brown Saturday. Across the field, the Great Danes (2-1) arrive in Amherst with a bit of momentum, having won their past two games against Drexel and Cornell.

UMass coach Greg Cannella believes slowing down Albany’s high-powered offense will be one of the keys Tuesday, and a big part of that will be stopping redshirt junior Seth Oakes. Albany’s leading scorer finished sixth in the country in scoring last year, averaging 3.18 goals per game.

Oakes has picked off where he left off last year, tallying 10 goals through three games. Cannella said he’s impressed with what Oakes has done so far in his collegiate career.

“Oakes is a very well-rounded player,” Cannella said. “He can score, he’s acrobatic in his stick protection and his ability to score behind the back. (He’s) just a great finisher, unselfish player, he’s well-rounded.”

Sophomores Connor Fields and Justin Reh complement Oakes in powering the Great Danes’ offense. Both players have scored five goals this season, while Fields also leads Albany with six assists.

After scoring seven goals against Brown, marking the Minutemen’s lowest total since the opening game of the season against Army, UMass faces another challenge to find the back of the cage against the Great Danes.

Albany goalie Blaze Riorden was named a member of the America East All-Conference team and All-Tournament team each of his past two seasons and has 47 saves so far this season.

“(Riorden) is a guy who made close to 20 saves this weekend against Cornell,” Cannella said. “He’s got a lot of experience. He’s started every game of his college career and he’s been outstanding for them.”

Riorden has seen his goals against average increase from 11.25 last season to 12.67 over the first three games of this year, but his save percentage has slightly increased, up to .553 this year from .449 in 2015.

Albany will be the fourth top-15 opponent UMass has faced in its nonconference schedule. The Minutemen are 1-2 against ranked opponents this season, beating No. 11 Ohio State and falling to No. 14 Harvard and No. 7 Brown.

This tough road to start the season has resulted in the Minutemen having the ninth-hardest strength of schedule in the country, according to laxpower.com.

“You try to play tough opponents, but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out from year to year in terms of how the team is going to be at that point because you schedule out a few years ahead,” Cannella said.

Opening faceoff is set for 3 p.m. at Garber Field Tuesday.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]

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