Different year, same result.
For the second time in three years, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team fell to No. 12 Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship with a 9-4 loss at the Tigers’ home Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday.
UMass (7-8, 3-2 CAA) had a chance to make it a one-goal game late in the third quarter with a man-up opportunity but Towson (10-4, 4-1 CAA) goalie Matt Hoy stonewalled freshman Jeff Trainor right in front of the cage.
After a successful clear Tigers senior Mike Lynch added his second goal of the game with just 20 minutes remaining in the quarter, a back-breaking goal for the Minutemen.
“That kind of changed the game,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “It’s 5-3, we’re man-up, could be 5-4, goalie makes a great save and then the ball goes down and they wind up scoring with about 30 seconds, so it’s a big swing from 5-4 to 6-3. I thought that was probably the biggest play of the game for us, not executing that one.”
The Minutemen sealed their fate with 7:51 left in the fourth quarter when junior Shane Rinkus was pressured by two Towson players and attempted a pass back to goalie D.J. Smith but the senior was not in the net, resulting in an own goal that stretched Towson’s lead to five.
The Tigers took control of the game with a three-goal run in the first quarter that included an impressive behind-the-back goal from senior Joe Seider, a lead which they never relinquished.
Seniors Dan Muller and Grant Consoletti both scored twice, accounting for the Minutemen’s entire offensive output.
Four goals marked UMass’ lowest scoring total since it managed to score just twice against Army in the season opener.
“They did a nice job, especially their unit that plays up top, two short sticks and the pole were outstanding today,” Cannella said.
Towson opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game when senior Tyler Young scooped up a shot from senior Ryan Drenner that banged off the crossbar and found the back of the cage with Smith still out of position from the first attempt at net.
The Minutemen answered exactly a minute later when Gianni Bianchin found Consoletti wide open in front of the cage for the first of two man up goals for UMass on the day.
Muller broke the Tigers’ run with a man-up goal assisted by sophomore Ben Spencer, making it a two-goal game at the time.
The Minutemen clamped down on the Tigers defensively in the second quarter, keeping Towson off the scoreboard until Drenner scored a minute before halftime, giving the Tigers a 5-2 lead.
Smith played well in the cage for the Minutemen and kept them in the game during the third quarter, tallying five of his 11 saves during the frame.
“[He] played well,” said Canella of Smith. “[He] wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be in the first quarter and recovered very well, made a huge save one-on-one and then did a nice job clearing the ball. I think our entire defense did a great job all day. Our defense held us in the game.”
Muller again cut the lead to two less than two minutes into the second half, tallying UMass’ first six-on-six score on the day.
The Minutemen’s active points leader entering Saturday’s game, Muller finished his UMass career with 91 points off 56 goals and 35 assists.
Drenner added an empty net goal in the final minute of the game for Towson. Consoletti added his second goal with 11 seconds remaining, the 24th and final goal of his Minutemen career.
UMass went on an impressive run to even earn a spot in the CAA title game, winning six of its final nine games in the regular season after an 0-4 start and defeating Hofstra 13-12 in the CAA semifinals with a buzzer-beating goal from Muller less than two weeks after losing to the Pride by seven goals.
“We’re proud of our guys and we we’re proud of our guys at 0-4 for playing three teams that are right now in the top seven of the country and played well in those games, just didn’t win. So we’re proud of our guys, proud of their efforts, always,” Cannella said.
The Tigers win marked Towson’s third straight CAA Championship victory and they will now advance to the NCAA tournament.
Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Jamie__Cushman.