Noah Rak dominates in the faceoff circle in UMass men’s lacrosse’s 9-6 win over Delaware

By Jamie Cushman

Men’s lacrosse defeated Delaware 9-6 at Garber Field on Saturday, April 1, 2017. (Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team controlled possession throughout the game on Saturday on route to a 9-6 win over Delaware at Garber Field, largely due to the play of faceoff specialist Noah Rak.

Rak took every faceoff, winning 15 of 18, which provided important extra possessions that helped UMass (4-5, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) secure the victory to open conference play.

The junior from Norwich, Conn. used the strength from his 6-foot, 203-pound frame to overpower the smaller Crosby Matthews who took 11 of the 18 faceoffs for the Blue Hens (7-4, 0-1 CAA).

“I was just a lot bigger than him,” Rak said. “I was able to box him out, and out-tough him. [My strength] definitely helped me out. The kid was like 5’6” or something, so I was able to get him off the ball pretty easily.”

Rak credited the 15-3 advantage in the faceoff X to the support from his teammates on either side of him, securing the all-important loose balls that follow a faceoff.

“We were winning the clamp but my wings really helped me out I think. We had great wing play today, attribute a lot to that,” he said.

Rak’s teammates stressed the value of the Minutemen’s dominance in the faceoff advantage and the junior’s play.

“Noah was great on the faceoff X all day and I think his wings helped him out on a couple,” senior Tyler Weeks said. “He’s been great for us since he’s been back and hopefully he can continue that over CAA play.”

“Once again I’ll shout out Noah, he absolutely murdered it on the faceoff X,” freshman Jeff Trainor said.

UMass coach Greg Cannella praised not just Rak’s play, but also the work of his teammates and volunteer coach Kurt Hunziker to get Rak prepared for game day.

“Noah’s been great for us over the stretch of games, the last five games where we’re 4-1, so proud of his efforts,” Cannella said. “But don’t forget about Charlie Schatz who gets him ready every week and Tommy Meyers who’s waiting to get an opportunity every week, those guys work their butts off every day with Kurt Huntziker.”

The Minutemen’s advantage in ground balls provided another source of extra possessions, tallying 39 to Delaware’s 16.

Rak explained how that ground ball advantage benefited both the offense and the defense.

“Ground balls are huge,” Rak said. “If you get them like that, especially that advantage, you’re going to win every game, there’s no doubt. Just extra possessions [on] offense, keeps the pressure off the defense.”

Rak led UMass with six ground balls. Junior Jake Marino and sophomore Mike McDonough both secured four.

“Very important,” Cannella said of the ground ball advantage. “Delaware is a force on offense, scoring 12 plus goals a game, so any time you can get, particularly in our defensive end, get the ball up and out, great, and then on our offensive end, to have an opportunity to whether it was a save or a rebound or a checked ball or even a bad pass, to extend the possession.”

Weeks and Trainor both said the importance of winning the ground ball battle has come from the top of the coaching staff on down to the rest of the team.

“All four coaches just preach ground balls, ground balls,” Trainor said. “The tough ground balls are what swings the play, swings momentum, gets the bench involved, and I think it was 39-16, it just speaks for itself.”

The Minutemen will look to Rak to continue to dominate the faceoff X and to control the ground ball advantage when they travel to Towson on Saturday.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Jamie__Cushman.