Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s lacrosse opens season with tilt against No. 16 Army

The Black Knights beat the Minutemen 9-2 last season.

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team begins its regular season Saturday, traveling to West Point, New York to take on Army.

The Minutemen have opened their season with the Black Knights every year since 2011. After winning the first four games in the series, Army has had the best of UMass in recent years, winning the last three. Last season, the Minutemen suffered a 9-2 opening defeat.

The Black Knights enter the season ranked No. 16 in the country mostly due to their stout defense that finished seventh in the nation last year in scoring defense, allowing just 8.19 goals per game.

“They shut us down last year,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “They won a ton of faceoffs last year in our game, probably 70-75 percent of the faceoffs. Their faceoff group is still really, really good. Defensively, they’re a strong team. They try to fly around at times, other times they settle in and just show up and snap back to their guy and make you beat them one-on-one.”

UMass has had two scrimmages against Providence and Sienna to prepare for the season, but know that the level of intensity will raise drastically once the regular season begins.

While the scrimmages were a good time to go against a different opponent, Cannella wanted to make sure that the team would be at full health once the season began.

“They’ve gone pretty well,” Cannella said. “We’ve played well in both of them. Held a couple guys out due to injuries or fear of injuries; guys are going to be fine but we just wanted to keep everyone healthy, we need to keep everyone healthy this year.”

Like every college program, the Minutemen lost key seniors to graduation, most notably midfielder Dan Muller who was named to the Colonial Athletic Association All-Conference First Team after leading UMass in points (37). Another loss was attackman Grant Consoletti, who was tied with Muller for the team lead in assists with 14.

On the defensive side, the Minutemen graduated captain Tyler Weeks and goalie D.J. Smith, two players who will be tough to replace.

However, UMass still has key contributors returning from a team that made it all the way to the CAA championship a season ago, falling to a Towson team that made it to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.

Leading the Minutemen this year will be close defenseman Isaac Paparo. The junior was selected to the Preseason All-CAA Team as well as being named a team captain.

He’ll be joined by seven seniors who will look to lead a UMass team that the CAA coaches poll has slotted to place third in the conference.

“We rely on our seniors,” Cannella said. “We need our seniors to play well and play their best every year. Right now there’s seven guys in that class. All are contributing and doing a nice job. They have that sense of urgency and they have to lead that group. Their experience is important, especially in practice and preparation. Hopefully they can keep that up.”

One edge the Minutemen hold is that they won’t be intimidated playing ranked teams, as UMass annually plays a tough non-conference slate against some of the top programs in the country.

“Our schedule is very difficult,” Cannella said. “This is a date Army has and a day that we have so we play on this day usually. You have to get ready for it and get ready for the rest of the games as well. It doesn’t matter where it is, you have to be ready for it.”

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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