Versatility is key for UMass’ lethal attacking unit

A trio of attackers has become a three-headed monster for the Minutemen

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Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

Jeff Trainor might run the offense for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, but its attack unit has stood out through five games and provided most of the goal scoring for the Minutemen (3-2, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association).

The trio of Gabe Procyk, Dillon Arrant and Chris Connolly— or Devin Spencer since Connolly suffered an injury— have exceeded expectations so far this season. And the primary reason for that is how well they all complement each other.

“Devin has played well, the attack in general has played well,” coach Greg Cannella said. “And you need that group to play well to see success as an offensive unit. Because they’re involved in everything.”

Procyk has never been a driving attackman. His strength comes from his ability to create scoring chances in tight. If the junior can get his hands free for even a few seconds, he is talented enough to receive passes on the crease and quickly find the back of the net for UMass.

Procyk has already accumulated 17 points on 14 goals and three assists in just five games this season.

Dillon Arrant operates entirely opposite from Procyk, in that he is at his best at the perimeter where he can create space with the ball in his stick and fire shots at will. If an opposing defense cheats down to protect the inside, the talented freshman will make them pay for it.

Arrant has one of the best outside shots of all Minutemen. The combination of power he displays with his ability to disguise his release is a nightmare for opposing goaltenders to the tune of 12 goals already in his freshman campaign.

“You play the best players you have, and right now on attack those are two of the guys that perform the best in practice and in games,” Cannella said of Arrant and Procyk. “It’s nothing about any other team, it’s about those guys, their work ethic and their output.”

And the perfect catalyst for both Arrant and Procyk’s success has been Chris Connolly. A do-it-all attacker, the senior can play the role of both facilitator and scoring threat simultaneously.

Connolly can attack from anywhere, but keeps his head up, always looking for the extra pass rather than tunneling on the goal. He has led the Minutemen in points two years in a row with a healthy mix of goals and assists, and scored three goals in the first game of the season, before leaving the second contest with an injury.

“Really, we’ve only had [three] games where we didn’t have Chris,” Cannella said. “So, it’s still a work in progress, we’re still trying to figure some things out for that group.”

In his absence, Devin Spencer has slotted into a starting role on the unit. Spencer can attack the crease from anywhere and has a similar play style to Connolly.

Additionally, the graduate student is comfortable playing attack, having switched between that and midfield a few times last season. That made the decision to slide him in even easier for Cannella.

Spencer has 19 points already this season, and in his three full games starting on attack has racked up three goals and 10 assists.

Connolly’s injury threw a wrench in the lineup, and there is still some sorting out left as a result, but the trio of Spencer, Arrant and Procyk keeps the UMass offense operating at a high level in the meantime.

That unit will be back on Garber field at 5 p.m. on Friday when the Gorillas take on Hofstra.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.