Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to make it four straight on Saturday at Brown

Minutemen rest up between games

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(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team looks to break .500 on the season when it travels to Rhode Island on Saturday to take on Brown in the season’s final non-conference matchup.

The Minutemen (4-4) are currently riding a hot streak following an extremely cold one. After dropping three straight games, UMass flipped the script and won its next three against NJIT, UMass Lowell and Hartford.

With just six games to go, four of which will be played on the road, the Minutemen will need a strong performance on Saturday against the Bears (3-3) to boost themselves in the standings, an effort that originates in much-appreciated practice time, according to UMass coach Greg Cannella.

“We had a stretch there where we [had games] Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday — so we don’t get a lot of practice time,” Cannella said. “We’ll continue to work hard, there’s no way around that.”

In last Saturday’s 17-13 victory over Hartford (3-4), which gave the Minutemen their third consecutive win, freshman attacker Chris Connolly played exceptionally well, netting six goals on nine shots, converting on two-thirds of his attempts.

“[Connolly] has been good,” Cannella said. “He’s a very hard worker and very coachable but obviously he’s still learning a lot about himself and his own abilities at this point. He’s working very hard to hone his craft.”

Connolly, a Connecticut native, put on a similar performance earlier in the season in just his second collegiate game against Sacred Heart, in which he scored four times on six shots.

But even when not scoring an abundance of goals, Connolly’s progression has been a bright spot for UMass throughout its entire season, recording at least one point in each of the eight contests.

“He’s been very consistent — he’s never been shutout in any of those games,” Cannella said. “If you don’t score six goals it doesn’t mean that you’re not performing as a player on the field and that’s probably something that more of our players need to think about — everybody has a role on a team.

“Sometimes it’s to finish the ball, sometimes it’s to feed the ball, sometimes it’s to get the hard ground balls or make the hockey assist that doesn’t show up [on the stat sheet]. For defenders it’s to defend and play together, [even though] it may not show up in the paper.”

Brown enters Saturday’s matchup coming off a 19-8 win over Holy Cross on Tuesday night, one of six games that the Bears (3-3) have played this season.

Leading the offensive charge for Brown has been sophomore attackman Luck McCaleb, who has collected a team-best 24 points on the season, propelled by 13 goals.

Junior midfielders Carson Song (13 goals) and Michael Panepinto (14 goals) have also been at the forefront of the Bear’s offensive production, owning 23 and 21 points on the season, respectively.

Aside from McCaleb, Song and Panepinto, UMass will undoubtedly need to shut down the rest of the Brown attack to pull out a win on Saturday, especially with the speed and fluidity that the Bears show when moving the ball down the field on the fast-break.

“They’re a very explosive team,” Canella said. “You have to try to prevent some of their transition and the way that they play in early offense. They’re a very strong team, very good shooters — great way to play if you’re playing for them.”

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

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