UMass men’s lacrosse 2022 season preview

Minutemen set to battle a difficult schedule and strong conference opponents this season

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Eva Trainer / Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team had a rollercoaster year in 2021 due to COVID-19 cancellations, key injuries and inconsistent offensive play. Those elements culminated in a 4-6 season and an early exit from the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

The Minutemen’s path forward in 2022 reflects similar challenges to the 2021 season. UMass has a 13-game regular season schedule and of those contests, eight are against teams ranked or receiving votes for Inside Lacrosse’s preseason top-20 media poll. The Minutemen open their season against No. 10 Army West Point, No. 7 Yale a few weeks later and will have to deal with No. 16 Delaware and No. 18 Drexel in conference play.

If UMass hopes to make a return to the NCAA tournament in May, it will need to play consistent lacrosse and get its group working together to form a powerhouse unit.

Matt Knote must continue to prove himself as best CAA goalie

Knote has already become the backbone of UMass lacrosse since stepping between the pipes the opening game of his freshman year. His first two seasons were partially derailed by COVID-19, but Knote was still able to claim a spot on the All-CAA first team and the CAA All-Tournament team despite the Minutemen only playing in one postseason contest.

Now Knote is staring down his first full season of college lacrosse against a few high-powered offenses, and he will have to shoulder a large load in order to hold those teams off the scoreboard and pull out wins. He averaged over 10 saves per game in each of his first two seasons and his 18 save playoff performance last year proved that he can come through in clutch situations. Considering he garnered those accomplishments in only 17 total games, there is still plenty of room for Knote to grow in year three.

Lethal attacking trio in the making

The attacking unit of Chris Connolly, Gabriel Procyk and Dillon Arrant played only five full quarters as a trio last season, but their offensive skillsets complement each other well and could make for a much more offensively potent lineup than UMass saw last season.

Connolly has been a star offensive player since joining the Minutemen, leading the team in scoring during his sophomore and junior seasons, racking up 139 points during his college career thus far. Even through postponements and a season ending injury last year, that point total ranks in the top-20 in program history, and Connolly will rise in those ranks this season.

Procyk is also a high point scorer but with a much different play style than Connolly’s. Connolly creates offense with the ball in his stick, driving towards the net and finding a goal for himself or freeing up a teammate. The primary beneficiary of that on-ball movement is Procyk, who is skilled at finding openings without the ball and scoring quickly off feeds from Connolly and others.

Rounding out the trio is Arrant, a sophomore who made a major offensive impact in his first year. Arrant’s skilled perimeter shooting stretches out the defense and gives Connolly and Procyk room to work in tight on the crease. Adding this trio along with skilled offensive midfielders such as brothers Kevin and Mike Tobin has the potential to provide more stability and unity in scoring than UMass had in 2021.

Face offs favor the Minutemen

Towards the end of last season, UMass began to develop a multidimensional face off group by implementing then-freshmen Caleb Hammett and Ryan Henry alongside Zack Hochman. During Hochman’s freshman year he handled a vast majority of the load as a face off specialist and he excelled at that because of his athletic ability.

While Hochman is still likely to carry the largest workload in the group, Hammett and Henry both have more specialized skillsets that can be utilized in different circumstances. On days when Hochman struggles to win his draws, Henry or Hammett might see more success with their different strategies.

All three specialists finished last season above 53 percent on draws, and Hochman showcased his transition offense as well, scoring six points on five goals and one assist. If the unit takes more steps forward in 2022, they will be able to help the Minutemen play games at their own pace and retain quality offensive possessions.

Eisenstadt and Hill no longer under the radar

Two players that flew under the radar for the Minutemen in 2021 were Sam Eisenstadt and Matthew Hill. Eisenstadt was quietly one of the best long-poles UMass fielded, sharing a heavy workload with Jackson Suboch against opposing attackers. Hill has been used as a short-stick defensive midfielder for the past three seasons and provides additional consistency on the defensive end.

Neither Eisenstadt nor Hill will be overlooked this season as they make up two of the three Minutemen captains. Eisenstadt was also named to the preseason All-CAA team as an acknowledgement of his impressive 2021 campaign. Each will play a pivotal role on the defensive side of the ball and likely be tasked with opposing teams’ best attacker and midfielder respectively.

UMass will take its bolstered lineup on the road to challenge Army West Point on Saturday, Feb. 12 at noon.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.