Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Isaac Paparo is doing it all for No. 20 UMass men’s lacrosse

The senior turned in four caused turnovers, seven ground balls and an assist against Utah

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Isaac Paparo is doing it all for No. 20 UMass men’s lacrosse

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Ben Painchaud, Collegian Staff

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For the first time since the preseason, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team is back in the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse rankings, rounding out the polls at No. 20 in NCAA.com’s most recent evaluation. UMass has rattled off four straight wins to climb back in, and with the way senior Isaac Paparo has been playing, that streak figures to extend this weekend when the Minutemen host Brown.

Against Utah on Sunday, Paparo turned in what was arguably his best performance of the year on paper: four caused turnovers, seven ground balls and an assist in the 16-2 victory.

He registered no goals but was not afraid to let the ball fly, firing off three shots to establish the Minutemen’s transition game. Paparo’s Utah game followed up a five-shot, two-goal effort against UMass Lowell.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been trying to step it up,” said Paparo. “When the opportunity comes, I’m not going to shy away.”

Led by Paparo, the defensive unit has given little ground in each of the past two games, surrendering four goals to UMass Lowell before allowing just two to Utah. Part of that has been Tom Meyers controlling possession for the Minutemen with his face-off dominance, and part of that has been the off-ball defense, which Cannella cited as an area needing improvement when the team headed into its Albany matchup four weeks ago.

“I think [the off-ball defense] has improved,” said Cannella. “It needs to continue to improve. Sean’s [Sconone] cleaned up some of the miscues for us. He’s been solid. So, that group just needs to continue to play hard and continue to communicate each day.”

The chemistry between Paparo and the rest of the defensive unit, plus Paparo’s placement all over the field, has been foundational to his recent production, as well.

“If you watch the film, it’s like—most of the ground balls are put on the turf from other people’s play,” said Paparo. “It’s not as if I’m doing everything by myself. I wouldn’t be able to get myself in the right spot if it wasn’t for someone communicating…if somebody wasn’t playing good defense, I wouldn’t be able to pick a pass off.”

Cannella, meanwhile, believes Paparo’s production is more indicative of his character, calling his senior captain “a guy [who] wants to be everywhere.”

For a close defenseman, Paparo is unusually short in stature, standing just five-foot-seven. Meanwhile, every other close defenseman on the roster is six feet or taller, with Jackson Suboch standing six-foot-five and Duke Lenaghan a towering six-foot-six. For his “whole life,” Paparo has played with a chip on his shoulder because of his lack of height.

“I’m actually hoping that the opposing player is thinking, ‘What a great matchup for me. This kid is small. I can take him.’ And then all of a sudden we go at it for 60 minutes and afterwards, maybe he realizes he was wrong,” said Paparo. “It started with football when I was a kid. Just tried hitting kids as hard as I could, since I was smaller.”

“So, that’s what I still do,” he added with a laugh.

Face off is schedule for 1 p.m. at Garber Field on Saturday.

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

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