A tale of two halves cuts UMass’ postseason run short

The Minutemen’s second half struggles prove to be costly in CAA Tournament

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Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Kevin Tobin found the back of the net for the fifth straight goal to open the Colonial Athletic Association semifinal game for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team. Just like that, it seemed like UMass (4-6, 4-4 CAA) was finally clicking.

But that didn’t last long.

The Minutemen struggled all season long to put together a complete 60 minute game, and with their season on the line, those struggles continued before they ultimately resulted in a 13-8 loss to Drexel (9-2, 6-2 CAA) on Thursday.

UMass walked into its locker room at halftime with a comfortable 6-2 lead over the Dragons. But in the ensuing 30 minutes, the Gorillas allowed nine straight goals against them, putting themselves in a deep hole in the fourth quarter that they couldn’t climb out of.

“The game was very typical of what we’re all about this whole season,” head coach Greg Cannella said of the loss. “We played really well the first half … and then a few plays didn’t go our way in the third quarter, and we felt it.”

UMass’ offensive inconsistency reared its ugly head again and has been the primary contributor to the Minutemen’s inability to play a complete game this year.

Since losing Chris Connolly early in the season, Cannella has gone through various offensive looks. All of them have been effective at times, but none have generated steady scoring for UMass.

On Thursday it was more of the same. The Minutemen dominated the first quarter in every aspect and capitalized at a high rate in the offensive end. Veteran leaders like Jeff Trainor and Billy Philpott helped control the tempo in transition and while settled, and the Minutemen were finding offense from everywhere. But they couldn’t continue that same level of success through the second half.

“It was the inability … for us as an offensive group to score to help lessen the pain, lessen the load on the defense,” Cannella said. “When you make a save or get a loose ball, you have to clear it, and then you have to answer on the offensive end. That’s how you stop runs and we weren’t able to do that.”

It’s game against Drexel wasn’t the first time UMass saw its offense come to a screeching halt. Less than a week prior, the Minutemen started out hot against Delaware, scoring six goals in the first 20 minutes, before being shut out for the final 40 and eventually losing 9-6.

In fact, UMass’ struggles to play 60 minutes of offense have existed all season long. In the Minutemen’s win over Drexel earlier in the year, they held the Dragons to just two first half goals but didn’t generate enough scoring of their own to take advantage of that.

“We were up 5-2 at halftime, and we were a little frustrated on the offensive end at that point,” Cannella said after the first matchup. “Because we did have multiple opportunities and mentally, we weren’t sharp on the offensive end in the first half.”

Although UMass would finish strong and go on to win that game, the seeds were planted early that something needed to change later in the season so that the Minutemen could find success for four quarters.

Those changes didn’t come soon enough and forced a UMass team with a strong roster and glimpses of dominance to head home earlier than expected in 2021.

“It’s very disappointing,” Cannella said. “Their effort was there the entire year, they gave great effort … but in particular on the offensive side we weren’t really able to execute at the level we needed to.”

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