Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Painchaud: Anything can happen in CAA tournament play

Not much separation between top four teams
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team will start the Colonial Athletic Association tournament the same way it started the CAA regular season, against Drexel (6-7, 2-3 CAA). UMass (10-4, 4-1 CAA) scraped out a 10-9 win over the Dragons on March 30, thanks to a go-ahead goal from Jeff Trainor with minutes to spare in the fourth quarter.

The following week, UMass traveled to Hempstead, N.Y. to battle Hofstra, which finished as the second-worst team in the conference, ahead of only Fairfield (0-5). Hofstra escaped with a 10-9 upset in overtime, snapping the Minutemen’s six game win streak at the time. A week later, UMass responded with a statement 14-10 win over then-No. 9 Towson. By the end of three quarters, the Minutemen were already ahead by a wide margin, 12-3.

The Towson win showed character from the Minutemen, who didn’t let the Hofstra loss stop their momentum, but more significantly, it demonstrated that anything can happen in CAA conference play. UMass went on a pretty erratic run during its first three weeks of conference play. They barely scraped past Drexel, got upset by Hofstra, then regained their momentum with a big win over a top-ranked Towson unit.

Drexel, Towson and Delaware were equally unpredictable in CAA conference play. Drexel beat Hofstra two weeks removed from Hofstra’s upset of the Minutemen and lost to Towson and Delaware by a margin of just two goals. Delaware lost to Towson and most recently UMass. Towson’s wins over Hofstra, Delaware and Drexel were all only by two goals or less.

No CAA team truly established itself as the top dog in 2019. Drexel, Towson, Delaware and UMass all made easy work of Fairfield; Towson had the smallest margin of victory over the Stags at seven goals. Otherwise, they’re all in the same boat. They beat up on Fairfield, but every other win was tightly-contested.

In recent years, however, two teams have dominated the CAA. Towson won three straight championships from 2015-2017 until coach Greg Cannella’s Minutemen took home the trophy last year. Prior to that, UMass was the runner-up in 2015 and 2017. With that being said, it might seem like fate should UMass and Towson square off once again in this year’s championship.

Yet, it’s hard to ignore the facts. Besides maybe the Minutemen’s 14-10 win over Towson — and even then, Towson made it close by roaring back to score seven goals in the fourth quarter — none of the games played between this year’s four postseason teams revealed a definitive alpha of the group.

Now, with May 2 and the first round of the CAA championship right around the corner, it’s almost time for a top dog to emerge.

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

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