UMass meets No. 13 Drexel in the CAA conference tournament

The Minutemen face the Dragons for an unprecedented third time in one season

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Eva Trainer / Daily Collegian

By Benjamin Astill, Collegian Staff

When the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team walked off Garber Field on March 20 after a comfortable 13-7 win to move to 2-0 on the year, things were looking promising for a strong season. Meanwhile, the early season loss dropped its opponent, Drexel, to 1-2. Fortunes have changed for both teams heading into Thursday’s opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

The Minutemen (4-5, 4-4 CAA) have lost five of seven since that March victory. The story of their slump has been struggling to close out close games, with all five of their losses coming by less than three goals.

“We were right in those games,” UMass head coach Greg Cannella said of the team’s close losses this year. Cannella praised his team’s effort this season but said the key to turning things around would be making the most of their chances. “It’s about execution for us, particularly on the offensive end.”

UMass has struggled to find consistent production on the attack. In its last game against then No. 15 ranked Delaware, UMass was shut out for the last 39 minutes of the game. That is a trend that can’t continue if the Minutemen hope to have success in the CAA tournament.

The Dragons (8-2, 6-2 CAA) on the other hand are winners of seven straight since the March loss to UMass. They have outscored their opponents by 43 goals over that stretch. Drexel has beaten every other team in the CAA during its win streak, including a win over the Minutemen to split the season series 1-1.

“They are a tough team,” Cannella said. “They dominate the middle of the field, groundballs. Defensively they’ve always been a strong team in terms of their schemes and what they do to prevent you from being successful. Their players are playing at a high level because they play hard every game.”

Drexel currently has the top offense in the CAA, averaging over 14 goals per game. This is due to players like Aidan Coll and Sean Donnelly who are tied for the lead in points for the Dragons. They combined for five goals and six assists against the Minutemen in the Dragons’ April win.

Another factor for the Drexel offense is Jack Mulcahy, who was named CAA Player of the Week on May 3. He has six goals in Drexel’s last two wins, including a goal with only 11 seconds left that gave Drexel a win over Towson and helped UMass seal a spot in this tournament. Slowing down Mulcahy, Donnelly and Coll will be crucial for the Minutemen defense.

 

“As you grow as a team during the season, you’re supposed to be playing your best lacrosse at this point, and it looks like that’s what they’re doing. So, for us that’s the challenge, to go out and be able to play at a high level and match that intensity,” Cannella said.

This is the first time UMass has had to meet a conference opponent three times in one year. There is a lot to be learned from both games between these two teams, as well as from their recent runs of form. But luckily for UMass, the conference tournament also means a clean slate.

“The thing with getting into the tournament, everyone’s 0-0 again. It’s a new season” Cannella said after Friday’s game against Delaware.

The task of facing the hottest team in the CAA is not an easy one, but the Gorillas have proven that they can beat this Drexel team. UMass will take on the Dragons on Thursday, May 6 at 7 p.m. at Shuart Stadium in Long Island, N.Y.

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