After starting the season 1-4, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team finds itself in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game for the third time in four years.
The Minutemen (11-4) entered the CAA tournament riding high on a nine-game win streak, going unbeaten in conference play to earn the top spot in the tournament and the ability to have the tournament on their home field. UMass used that to its advantage, defeating Hofstra 10-6 in the conference semifinals.
By looking at just the stat sheet, it would appear that the Minutemen won the game easily. They outshot the Pride 46-26, won four more faceoffs, only missed one clear attempt and grabbed seven more groundballs. Yet, Hofstra goalie Jack Concannon would not let UMass run away with it, grabbing a CAA tournament record 22 saves.
“We expected a game like this,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “Hofstra was really strong and focused. They tried to prevent our transition game and did a nice job with it. Their goalie proved he’s a fantastic goalie. He’s the goalie of the year in our conference, returning All-American. He played that way tonight.”
While the Minutemen were controlling the majority of the game, the Pride (6-8) had a chance to gain the momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Jimmy Yanes scored with 11 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the UMass lead to 7-4, and Luc Valenza was called for a push just 19 seconds into the fourth to put the Minutemen a man down.
The Hofstra offense couldn’t seize the opportunity, though, as UMass killed off the 30 second penalty and two minutes later Jake Lisauskas found the back off a feed from Jeff Trainor to keep the Minutemen in control of the game.
“I didn’t like the call but the stop was big,” Cannella said. “Hofstra is coming in throughout the year and in years past very strong on the extra-man. We got two stops today which was great.”
Down four goals, Dylan Alderman wouldn’t let Hofstra quit. The midfielder scored two in a row to bring the Pride within two, but the UMass defense prevented the Pride from adding any more. Jake Marino rifled a shot past Concannon with 1:33 remaining to seal the win for UMass and Kevin Tobin added a final goal with 20 second remaining.
While Concannon had a great game in net for Hofstra, the Minutemen also received strong play in net from Sean Sconone. The junior made 11 saves to improve his season record to 6-3.
“It was back-and-forth lacrosse between those two,” senior Buddy Carr said of Concannon and Sconone. “Sean was bailing out our defense a couple times and getting the ball up the field, it sparked out team.”
Trainor scored the opening goal for UMass, but Hofstra answered with a pair of goals of its own. The Minutemen then scored three in a row, two off the stick of Carr, and after another Pride goal, UMass went on another three goal spurt to take a 7-3 lead.
With Concannon playing well in net and the Hofstra defense rushing back to not allow the Minutemen run in transition, most of the UMass goals came off of crisp ball movement in their sets. Trainor led the Minutemen with five points, coming on two goals and three assists. Carr added four points of his own.
“Not aim and shoot the ball to score,” Carr said of the team’s offensive approach. “Just try to blow it by him, that’s what we tried to do.”
UMass will face the winner of Towson and Delaware in the championship game, which will take place at 1 p.m. at Garber Field on Saturday.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.