UMass offense struggles in second half in loss to Army

Minutemen registered 16 turnovers on the day

Photo+by+Jon+Asgeirsson
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UMass offense struggles in second half in loss to Army

Photo by Jon Asgeirsson

Photo by Jon Asgeirsson

Photo by Jon Asgeirsson

Photo by Jon Asgeirsson

By Ben Painchaud, Collegian Staff

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The streak continues, making it four consecutive season-opening losses now for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, all of which have come at the hands of Army.

Shortly into sudden-death overtime, Army’s Brendan Nichtern rifled home a shot past UMass goalkeeper Sean Sconone, giving the Black Knights a 12-11 win.

A late push by UMass’ Devin Spencer and Chris Connolly forced the game into overtime, after the Minutemen’s offensive attack was limited for most of the second half. Part of UMass’ offensive struggles was sloppiness and execution (seven turnovers registered in the second half), and part of it was Army’s stifling defense—goalkeeper AJ Barretto had a terrific afternoon, saving 17 shots.

“Army did a really good job,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “The one thing that they did well today was, obviously, they weren’t winning faceoffs, so they put two poles up on the faceoff, and that kind of prevented us from getting any transition off the faceoff, which we’ve enjoyed in the past here.

“But also, they did a nice job of getting the ball on the ground on [faceoff specialist] Tommy Meyers. So he’d win the initial draw, but they turned it over and they got possession a few times, especially late in the game there.”

At times, the Minutemen’s offensive possessions were drawn out until the very end of the shot clock by Army—especially in the first half of the game—and at other times, UMass seemed to rush shots and make hasty decisions.

Their pace and flow seemed choppy, but sophomore attack Chris Connolly assures that the Minutemen are not looking to play at a set pace.

“We always talk about making the third and fourth looks instead of the first one,” said Connolly, who notched two goals for UMass, including the equalizer right in front of the net with one second left in regulation, “but if we see something, we’re gonna go for it, and that’s something that we talked about going into this game.”

Early in the first quarter, senior defenseman Isaac Paparo intercepted an errant Army pass, sprinted up the field, and dished to Connolly, who found the back of the net to put UMass ahead, 2-1.

As the game progressed, however, UMass was not as effective at creating offensive opportunities off of forced turnovers. Going forward, Conolly believes it will serve UMass well for its defense to “fuel” looks on the other end, and Paparo took responsibility for UMass’ inconsistency at doing so.

“That’s kind of on us, as defensemen, to [fuel offensive looks]—and Sean [Sconone]—if we want to play fast,” said Paparo. “We have to do it, we got to set the tone, and there were times we didn’t do it and that’s kind of why we weren’t getting much transition.”

In an effort to prevent UMass from springing loose and running, Army applied pressure near midfield throughout the game, which slowed the Minutemen’s attack. The Minutemen netted only four goals in the second half after scoring seven in the first.

“They’re five in a hole, they got six in a hole,” explained Cannella. “So then there’s no advantage for us. Any time we have an advantage, we’re gonna push the ball, so it stopped it. They got six in so it’s ‘okay, we’re gonna settle the ball.’ They did a nice job with it.”

UMass will look to get back on track next week when it hosts No. 16 Ohio State.

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