Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass honors 1976 men’s lacrosse tournament team

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(Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian)

This year’s collection of the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was not the only group of Minutemen present for Saturday’s game against Towson.

At halftime UMass honored the 1976 lacrosse team for the 40th anniversary of its season.

A total of 11 former players returned to campus for the ceremony: Andy Scheffer, Mike Lettera, Terry Keefe, Harry Conforti, Don Goldstein, Wayne “Duke” Ament, Richard Carnall, Fran Young, Norman “Norm” Smith, Vin LoBello and Jeff Spooner were all present for Saturday’s festivities.

The 1976 team was the university’s first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

The former Minutemen were excited to catch up with some of their old teammates and friends to rekindle the same relationships they had back when they were playing under legendary head coach Richard “Dick” Garber.

“We had a great day, the weather accommodated us,” Spooner said. “It’s always great to be back. You know the thing about lacrosse, it’s like a community. It’s like a little fraternity.”

Conforti agreed with his former teammate.

“Just pure joy catching up with these guys. I’ve maintained friendships with the majority of the kids on the team.”

Whether it was Spooner describing his annual golf game with Young, Lenny Caffery and David Lautman (other members of the ’76 team that were not present), or Conforti talking about his former teammates, it was obvious the former Minutemen share a special bond.

A number of players also fondly recalled the family atmosphere that Garber tried to promote throughout the team, like the times when his wife would bring ginger snaps and cider down to the team.

Current UMass coach Greg Cannella recognizes the importance of honoring the history and tradition of Minutemen lacrosse.

“I think it’s extremely important,” Cannella said. “Those guys had a heck of a year, and a lot of those guys are still coming up to games and still involved as alums with our players, supporting us emotionally and financially. They’re great people.”

Cannella added that a number of the facilities that this year’s UMass team enjoys – a new field, locker room and film room – were all made possible because of alumni contributions.

Junior Brendan Hegarty also recognized the importance of honoring former Minutemen.

“It’s very important. We’re big on tradition here at UMass, so we respect those guys and the alumni are very important to us,” Hegarty said.

According to Cannella, when you talk about UMass lacrosse tradition, you are really talking about Garber, who coached for 36 years and has the field named after him.

“I’m sure all those guys when they were together before the game will be together after the game tonight, they’ll talk about coach Garber. That’s the number one thing when you talk about the tradition here at UMass,” Cannella said.

Cannella also reflected on the continuity of UMass lacrosse, going from Garber as head, then his son, Ted Garber, for four years, to Cannella who has now been the head coach since 1995.

“I’m one of coach’s guys too because I played for him, the guys from the 60s and 70s, I’m still one of them. I’m a UMass guy. I’m a gorilla like them. And then from the 80s those are my contemporaries, and then after that I’ve coached all those guys, so there has been continuity over 60 years just because I’m one of coach’s guys. It’s very important,” Cannella said.

Garber Field will not have to wait long for another Minutemen reunion as UMass is set to honor the 2006 team for the 10th anniversary of the team’s season after the game against Hofstra on April 23.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]

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