Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s lacrosse seeks consistency during 2018 campaign

Minutemen coming off CAA title game berth

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

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For the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, a combination of spring’s slow arrival and the first spouts of sunshine that find their way through the winter clouds create a time of year unlike any other.

After the season has passed its darkest point and the snow all but melted away, the countless offseason repetitions and preseason practices come to an end, symbolizing the annual start of the Minutemen’s regular season campaign.

“It’s awesome,” senior midfielder Jake Lisauskas said. “We go six hard days a week in the fall to five in the winter, so it’s great to finally get to those 14 guaranteed contests.”

UMass (1-1), under two weeks into its official 2018 schedule with coach Greg Cannella at the helm, is poised to learn from its early season shortcomings in an effort to avenge last season’s devastating defeat in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.

“Really, when it comes down to it, we want to be consistent,” Cannella said. “We need our players to play at a high level, guys we’re counting on to play at a high level, and they need to do that consistently throughout the week in order to do it on Saturdays.”

Canella, in his 24th season at the head of the program after taking over in 1994, emphasized the importance of the Minutemen perfecting the smaller facets of the game, like transitions, clearing and faceoffs, in the early stages of the season to able to become a consistent group.

“Day-to-day, that kind of thing carries over,” he said. “If we can get to a certain level of consistency in terms of practice and preparation then we can go into games and just play them.”

UMass kicked off its regular season against a strong opponent in New York on Feb. 10, falling 18-6 at the hands of one of the country’s premier squads, No. 16 Army West Point.

“I think we prepared the right way prior to the game, we just felt like we did not execute and didn’t play with the confidence we felt that we had in the preseason,” Lisauskas said. “[After the game] we revisited our core values, especially on the offensive end, as well as the defensive end and kind of got back to our roots.”

Just three days later, the Minutemen were back at it for their second matchup of the season, this time back at the friendly confines of Garber Field, playing host to Sacred Heart.

Freshman Brendan Connolly scored four goals in UMass’ 13-9 victory over the Pioneers. The attackman has totaled six points on the season thus far, just one behind Buddy Carr (seven points) for the early team-lead.

“We were happy with how we bounced back and got right back at it,” Lisauskas said “[Our confidence] will grow with time.”

Lisauskas, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior from New Hampshire, was named one of three captains that will serve as the veteran leaders for the Minutemen in the locker room and on the field, along with fellow senior Shane Rinkus and junior Isaac Paparo.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Lisauskas said of being voted into the position by his teammates. “Especially to do it under [Cannella] who I’ve looked up to maybe my entire life being around New England and watching all the games as a kid. It’s an awesome honor for me, I’m extremely humbled.”

The senior midfielder has accumulated 23 career points on 13 goals and 10 assists for UMass over the previous three seasons, on his way to being named this year’s offensive-minded leader.

“My personal role is just, as a more offensive player, to get those younger guys in the offensive end, and everybody, playing as hard as we can,” he said. “I don’t think I have to really do anything special because we have great leaders, both offensively and defensively.”

Paparo, one of only three Minutemen to be named captain in his junior season during Cannella’s tenure, will hold down the defensive end in front of UMass goaltender Sean Sconone and act as the voice that holds the protective unit together.

To complete the trio, Rinkus, who set a single-season best as a junior with 40 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers, will aid Paparo in guiding the defense. As a defensive-minded midfielder, the senior contrasts the role of Lisauskas as a vocal leader on the field.

“They’re all really good people, really hard workers,” Cannella said. “They care about the program and they care about the team. Captains have to be guys that are tough on people but also have to have a certain amount of empathy to understand what other guys are going through. All three of those guys complement each other really well right now.”

Moving forward, the Minutemen will host four consecutive matchups at Garber before hitting the road for their last five out of eight games.

Asked about the odd layout of the schedule, Cannella kept the focus solely on the play of his team, emphasizing the fact that its fate still resides in its own hands at this early point of the season.

“None of those games are going to be easy,” he said. “If we use it to our advantage then good for us. If we don’t then we’re not doing our jobs right.”

UMass will certainly need to take care of business and do its job in those early games for a variety of reasons, notably because the schedule is a short one which will undoubtedly speed by.

Lisauskas only needed one word to define the state of the Minutemen heading into the bulk of their schedule and the early period of home games that it entails.

“Hungry,” the senior captain said with a grin.

 

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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