UMass defeated by Drexel in first round of CAA tournament 13-8

The Minutemen once again struggle offensively and fall short in the postseason

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Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian

By Ben Astill, Collegian Staff

The last time the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse game played in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament was May 2, 2019, at its home of Garber Field in Amherst, where they fell short against Drexel. On Thursday, the opponent and the stakes, a chance to make the CAA championship game, were the same.

The result would be the same as well, with Drexel (9-2, 6-2 CAA) ending UMass’ (4-6, 4-4 CAA) season with a 13-8 win.

The last month of results in the CAA would suggest that the Dragons would have all the momentum heading into this game. They were winners of seven straight, including an April win over the Minutemen. However, early on, it was UMass who grabbed control.

Going into this game having lost four of its last five, Minutemen head coach Greg Cannella stressed the need to execute on the offensive end, and early on, that is precisely what the UMass was able to do.  Fueled by their veteran leadership, they jumped out to a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Graduate Students Jeff Trainor, Devin Spencer, Billy Philpott and senior Kevin Tobin provided the early offensive production for the Minutemen. On the defensive end, a team effort and stellar play from goalie Matt Knote kept Drexel’s usually explosive offense off the board.

However, a familiar problem began to arise for UMass in the second quarter, a lack of execution on the offensive end. It did not hurt them too much in the first half, going into half up 6-2, but as Drexel’s offense began to take control, the Minutemen simply could not keep up.

From a 35-minute stretch of early in the second quarter to halfway through the fourth, UMass only scored one goal. In this stretch, the Dragons were able to take over the game with 11 goals, including four goals apiece from their leading point scorers this year, Sean Donnelly and Aidan Coll.

By the end of the third quarter, a 5-0 Minutemen lead had turned into a 7-6 advantage for Drexel. The Dragons added four more goals early in the fourth to cap a 11-1 run. This stretch of play felt very similar to last Friday, where UMass was shut out for the final 39 minutes of play against Delaware.

“The game was very typical of what we’re all about this whole season,” Cannella said. “A few plays didn’t go our way in the third quarter, and we melted. If you’ve been watching us play that’s been what’s happening to us in the last few games that we lost.”

In the fourth quarter, the Minutemen played an increasingly desperate game in order to end Drexel’s run and close an increasingly larger Dragon lead. This led to eight turnovers for UMass in the final quarter of play.

The result of the second half meltdown was a 13-8 Dragon win, and they will now advance to play fourth seeded Hofstra in the CAA championship game, while the Minutemen have reached the end of the road on their 2021 campaign.

This season has been a frustrating one for UMass. Between the issues with two pauses for COVID-19 safety concerns, and the injuries the Minutemen have sustained, especially to their most important offensive weapon Chris Connelly, it has been a challenge every step of the way.

“I’m proud of our guys in that regard,” Cannella said of the manner in which his team handled uncontrollable challenges. “Never an issue of effort in practice and never an issue of effort in game. The guys worked hard, you can’t complain about that.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done creating new leadership, continuing to create new culture.”

Ben Astill can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @benastill5