UMass men’s lacrosse the underdog in matchup versus Yale

Yale offense is orchestrated by attack Jackson Morrill


(Eva Trainer/ Daily Collegian)

By Ben Painchaud, Collegian Staff

It’s going to take a lot from the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team this Saturday to topple No. 4 ranked Yale, which edged then-No. 2 ranked Penn State in their most recent outing.

After going 0-for-5 on extra man opportunities versus Harvard, UMass will need to take better advantage of those situations if they hope to upset the Bulldogs. In the first quarter, UMass had a 6-on-4 opportunity but wasted it after a pass to the top skidded by Matt Baugher.

“I can’t make any excuses,” said head coach Greg Cannella. “We have to be better as a group, move the ball a little bit quicker. And then when we get our opportunities to score it, to score it, shoot it.”

The Minutemen committed 19 turnovers versus Harvard. Playing at a fast pace, turnovers are going to happen, but players and Cannella alike know that 19 is too many to surrender. To Billy Philpott, the team needs to be better at making the simple but right play.

“We don’t want to change the way we play, but we want to play smarter,” said the midfielder. “We talk about hitting singles here, just making the easy play, throwing it one more, letting the attacks give it through. Just kind of the easy play mentality that we’re going to try to focus on.”

On several occasions versus Penn State, Yale got caught ball-watching on defense and gave up easy goals off of backdoor cuts.

via Gfycat

Yale also had a few instances of miscommunication on pick plays. On one screen play, Yale’s Brian Tevlin failed to pick up his teammate’s assignment coming off the pick, the slide was late, and the result was a Penn State goal.

via Gfycat

Philpott, however, emphasized that Yale’s defensive mishaps will not have much influence on the Minutemen’s offensive strategy on Saturday.

“It’s all about playing fast,” said Philpott. “If we can make the defense slide once or twice, it’s really hard not to ball-watch. Guys get tired, guys get lost, they stand up a little bit. So we just want to play fast, make them turn their head, slide a few times and hopefully we’ll get some good results.”

Looking to the defensive end for UMass, it will be important to limit Jackson Morrill, who functions similarly to a point guard behind the cage for the Bulldogs.

Morrill is supported by a midfielder group that can hum it from distance and an attack group that cuts and finishes very well. Matt Gaudet, a big attack at 6-foot-1, 220, recorded a hat trick versus Penn State, with one of his goals coming off a feed from Morrill that made him get it off at a highly difficult angle.

via Gfycat

The junior isn’t afraid to let teams know about it when he scores. It will be interesting to see if any tempers flare up on Saturday, especially considering how closely UMass has played Yale the past two years, though Cannella insists “keeping it on the field.”

“There’s always kids on other teams who’re going to bicker, and try to talk trash, you know, get inside your head,” added captain Isaac Paparo. “But it’s all about us and we don’t really want to focus on them at all. At the end of the day, you want to talk trash to us, fine. Let’s just play lacrosse.”

Versus Harvard, Paparo had a few plays where he completely blew up a Crimson player, and on two of those occasions, he was called for unnecessary roughness. Though those penalties hurt teams by putting them in man-down situations, they can also fire a team up and set a tone defensively.

Paparo, however, doesn’t make much of plays like these in terms of their ability to inject life into the team.

via Gfycat

“Penalties are going to come, that’s the way the game’s played,” said Paparo. “Especially the way we play the game, we want to play a tough style of lacrosse. If you want to be a tough team you got to be able to stick your head down and get a tough ground ball, and sometimes that means hitting another player.”

Ben Painchaud can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Ben_Painchaud.