With the clock showing 11:06 remaining in the third quarter, Fairfield coach Andrew Baxter called timeout in an attempt to cool off the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, which had just rattled off four straight goals to open the half.
But even when the Stags (2-8, 0-7 Colonial Athletic Association) climbed back within one goal late in the third quarter, it wouldn’t be enough to mount a comeback. UMass (4-4, 4-3 CAA) shut the door in the final 15 minutes, securing a 21-14 win and snapping its three-game losing streak.
“It’s great for the guys, regardless of what the score was, to be successful,” coach Greg Cannella said after the game. “You need that kind of confidence going down the stretch.”
Early in the game, the Minutemen struggled to generate consistent offense. They found goals in spurts, but unforced turnovers seemed to carry over from their previous loss against Towson.
Despite that, UMass ended the first half with an 8-7 lead, and once the switch was flipped to start the back half, Fairfield couldn’t keep up with the onslaught of offense against it.
“We just talk about how you need to play the next 30 minutes one play at a time,” Cannella said of his halftime message. “Don’t worry about the outcome, don’t look at the scoreboard, just keep playing as hard as you possibly can. And when you do that, good things are going to happen.”
The Minutemen outscored the Stags 13-7 after the break and finished with the most goals they’ve scored since a 23-2 dismantling of Boston College on March 21, 2001. Their 11 different goal scorers are also the most in a single game since 2015.
Transition defense helped power UMass’ offense through important stretches, preventing Fairfield from gaining back momentum throughout the contest. Early in the game Zach Hochman responded to a Fairfield man-down goal by netting one just six seconds later, tying the game back up at two apiece. Outside of the goal, Hochman won 18 of his 33 faceoffs.
Later on, when the Stags were on a two-goal run and looking to make it three, defenseman Adam Towey turned defense into offense and scored his second of the year in transition. Towey was one of three long poles to find the back of the net for the Minutemen on Saturday.
“I thought those goals were the goals that really pushed us forward throughout the game,” Cannella said. “Those are people that aren’t supposed to score in games … and when those shots go in it energizes the entire team.”
Defensively, UMass struggled to contain Dylan Beckwith, who finished the game with seven points including six assists. And even though they won decisively, goalie Matt Knote and the Minutemen gave up 14 goals—the most against them all season.
“I thought we got a little bit out of our game, especially in the third quarter when they started playing more in transition,” Cannella said. “We didn’t handle it very well, called a timeout, obviously we have to buckle down … get organized on the field and from there our guys did a much better job.”
Regardless, UMass left Connecticut with a conference victory, one that will be crucial in earning a spot in the CAA Tournament.
With Towson and Hofstra’s losses on Saturday, the Minutemen have taken back their place among the top four teams in the conference with just one week to play in the regular season.
Now, only Delaware stands in the way of a trip to the postseason for UMass. A win over the Blue Hens on Friday will secure a postseason berth for the Minutemen regardless of the result of other games around the league.
“We’ve been talking about the opportunities that we have each week, but it’s really up to our guys,” Cannella said. “our focus in practice— Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, travel Thursday and practice down there Thursday — those practices have to be great.”
The Minutemen finish out the regular season against Delaware on Friday at 5 p.m.
Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.