A look at how the pandemic affected the UMass men’s lacrosse team

Cannella details caution his team has had to take


(Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian)

By Carson Depp, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was starting to heat up just before its season was cut short due to the pandemic.

Head coach Greg Cannella and company had won four straight, including a big win over the top team in the country at the time — Yale Bulldogs. The concern for the future of UMass’ season began to grow after its home win on Tuesday, March 10th against Long Island.

“We were supposed to play Saturday against Utah,” Cannella said. “Wednesday and Thursday we were like uh-oh is this going to close down on us?”

Cannella took notice of all the cancelations happening around them, but he wanted his team to remain focused on the upcoming opponent despite a cancellation seeming inevitable.

The Minutemen watched as they saw other sporting events and fellow colleges cancel in-person classes. These cancelations weren’t happening just in Amherst, but around the nation almost simultaneously.

Cannella’s focus shifted once all students were to officially be sent home and all future athletic events were cancelled indefinitely.

“We met that day via Zoom, wanted to make sure everyone was home safe and sound,” Cannella said. “Captains and leaderships group met with the team a bunch, really self-directed on the team.”

After a long offseason, UMass was finally able to come back to campus this fall, but under strict guidelines. Players were forced to split into different pods upon arrival on campus.

There were six different pods determined by where everyone lived. Freshmen and sophomores lived in the dorms while most of the upperclassmen lived off campus in apartments.

One pod included two players that came from California and another two from Canada. Those players were all placed together and forced to quarantine upon their arrival to Amherst.

Being restricted with limited physical activities players could do, Cannella said they were “forced to focus on fundamentals and stick skills.” Team members were tested twice a week and did not experience a single positive test.

The Minutemen continued to meet via Zoom once a week while they were all split into their various pods.

“Everyone talked about how bored they were and wanted to get back together,” Cannella said. “Have to limit contact as much as possible. Limit contact and wear masks all the time, follow the protocols, then it limits the chances of you getting it.”

In order to conduct practices in a way that would comply with the protocols, Cannella and his staff filtered guys in through their pods. Each pod had a designated time. or instance at 2:30 p.m. pod one would walk up from the lower fields after lifting and run through some drills with the coaches. Pods would also spend half an hour after each lifting session just to clean and wipe down equipment in order to stay as safe as possible.

For the first two weeks, players stayed within their six individual pods before they were later able to break up into two larger groups. This allowed for six-on-six drills and practices.

Last offseason UMass was working out and practicing together as one. Cheering one another on and supporting each other as one big team. This offseason was very different, as they could still cheer each other on, but they would have to do so within their separate groups and stay in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.

This season the Minutemen are welcoming back six returning seniors. Due to the previous season being cut short by the pandemic, the NCAA granted seniors eligibility to return for an additional year with their teams.

“All of them are big-time leaders, all six guys,” Cannella said. “They all have been tremendous leaders and coaches on the field out there for us. Good for them to come back because they had no real closure last year”.

Last fall, UMass had been ranked No. 14 in US Lacrosse Magazine Early 2021 National Rankings. From quarantining, to wiping down equipment, to following health protocols, the Minutemen are happy to have the opportunity this spring to play lacrosse again.

Carson Depp can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @CarsonDepp.