UMass suffers devastating 15-12 upset in the semifinal round of CAA conference play

Minutemen couldn’t recover from early four-goal deficit

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UMass suffers devastating 15-12 upset in the semifinal round of CAA conference play

By Grace Sherwood, Collegian Staff

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A familiar foe met the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team at the semifinal round of the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament. Drexel (7-7) upset UMass (10-5) at their home field 15-12 to advance to the championship round of the tournament.

Off the bat, the Dragons came out swinging, scoring five goals in the first alone, UMass only scoring one. The first of the game came from junior midfielder Collin Mailman of Drexel but was quickly answered by sophomore attackman Chris Connolly and senior defenseman Isaac Paparo to make it 1-1.

The even score didn’t last long as junior attackman Matthew Varian buried two more to put the Dragons up 3-1. Drexel went on to score two more unanswered goals that quarter, taking an advantage that carried them through the entire game.

“We lacked intensity early and late minutes in the game,” senior midfielder Ben Spencer said. “I think that set us back. We had the right preparation all week and were all on the same page to play at our highest potential. But that wasn’t the case off the bat.”

UMass had seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, a weakness the Minutemen had tackled all season long. The turnovers stunted UMass from finding any offensive advantages that would put them up over Drexel.

“I think that we were a little edgy,” coach Greg Cannella said. “But Drexel had more to do with that than anything. Because they put a lot of pressure on us on the offensive end and defensively, they did as well. The credit should go to them more than us.”

The second quarter did not fare much better for UMass, as the Minutemen trailed the Dragons 9-4 by the end.

UMass kicked off scoring for the quarter with a goal from junior attackman Devin Spencer, who ended up putting up five points for the Minutemen. The goal was quickly answered for four more from Drexel to put UMass behind even further. It was 9-2 before the Minutemen even put another point on the board.

UMass ended the quarter with two more goals, which weren’t enough to catch up to the deficit they had dug early in the first.

It was also during the second quarter that the penalties racked up for the Minutemen, putting them at a man-down disadvantage for 2:30 of the second quarter.

Senior goaltender Sean Sconone’s goalkeeping helped keep UMass afloat, stopping many of Drexel’s advances and giving UMass the necessary opportunities for advancement. Drexel outshot UMass 13-5 in the second, Sconone making four vital saves in that quarter alone. Overall, Sconone had 12 saves and two groundballs.

“Sconone’s had our back as a team this entire year,” Paparo said. “I think that we could’ve done a better job defending him on the defensive end.”

In the second half, UMass outscored Drexel both quarters, but the Dragons did not slow down enough for the Minutemen to catch up. Drexel scored three times in the third, the first on an extra man opportunity that was left over from a second quarter slashing penalty on UMass.

Devin Spencer put up two of the four goals of the quarter, closing the gap a little to go into the fourth quarter with a four-point deficit.

The fourth quarter was a battle. With both teams fighting hard to pull out on top, it was obvious the Minutemen hadn’t given up yet, and the Dragons weren’t going to let them have it so easy.

UMass scored two goals back to back on an extra man opportunity, the second from the Spencer brothers, to put the Minutemen down 14-11 with roughly 10 minutes left in the game.

Drexel scored another to leave UMass with a four-point deficit with 6:57 left of play time. UMass only had one more goal from junior midfielder Jeff Trainor before penalties suffocated the Minutemen and killed off any chance to come back.

“I don’t know if we really had the chance to come back in that game,” Cannella said. “Their goalie made some vital saves in the second half. We scored on other opportunities, we let up a couple of goals, and fouled, which you can’t do in that spot.”

UMass had four penalties in the fourth quarter, which resulted in three minutes at a man-down disadvantage. In total, the Minutemen suffered 5:30 of penalties throughout the entirety of the game. Drexel had three minutes.

“The penalties killed us,” Cannella said. “You can’t foul, especially when they’re so good in extra man opportunities. Especially at the time of the game when you’re trying to come back.”

Senior face-off specialist Tom Meyers went 16-30 at the center. Face offs proved to be important in the second half, when Meyers ended up being beat out by Drexel’s junior face off specialist Jimmeh Koita 8-15.

While the loss meant the end of UMass’ season, the Minutemen have few regrets over what they’ve left behind.

“There’s a lot to be proud of,” Spencer said. “Especially as a senior class everything we’ve gone through, from going 4-9 and building that all the way to a CAA championship. But it is disappointing. It isn’t the outcome we would’ve wanted, but Drexel just came out harder.”

Grace Sherwood can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @gshersports.