UMass battles through snow, beats LIU 12-7 at Garber Field

Procyk scores 100th career point against the Sharks

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Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Slushy, sloppy and cold.

Garber Field transformed into a winter wonderland ahead of the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s Saturday afternoon matchup against LIU, and the Minutemen (3-3) fared better in the elements, defeating the Sharks (3-4) 12-7.

Both teams had difficulty tracking the white ball through the snow, leading to five minutes of chaos to open the game. Once the referees switched to yellow balls UMass settled in more and took control of the game, and as soon as it got a lead it never turned back.

“It’s really hard when it’s wet and cold for our guys, for their hands and feet, especially the guys on the sideline,” Minutemen coach Greg Cannella said. “Some guys just play man-up or man-down and their standing on the sideline wet and freezing … that’s the hardest thing for these guys.”

UMass tried to use the visibility issues to its advantage on offense; every time the Minutemen had the ball in the attacking zone, they looked to pepper LIU goalie Will Mark with shots. Mark stood tall in the first half and UMass did not shoot efficiently, only potting five goals on its 25 shot attempts.

The second half brought more consistent scoring and also allowed Logan Liljeberg and Gabriel Procyk to heat up in the freezing temperatures. Liljeberg finished his afternoon with three goals and two assists, and Procyk ended with a pair of goals and his 100th career point in a Minutemen jersey.

“Great career here, a lot of goals [and] a lot of big plays,” Cannella said of Procyk. “[I’m] proud of him, hopefully he comes back for another year next year, too, so he can build on that.”

Shane O’Leary only scored one goal on Saturday, but he made a greater impact on the defensive end. The sophomore is becoming one of UMass’ best two-way midfielders and one possession in the second half captured his athleticism and defensive capability.

The Sharks were looking to build back momentum down a few goals in the fourth quarter, and they wanted to target O’Leary, as they had done with a few different offensive midfielders over the course of the game. O’Leary stood his ground and poked the ball free from the stick of an LIU attacker. He couldn’t secure the loose ball right away but when the Sharks regained possession, he laid another check and put the ball on the ground a second time. He won the ensuing ground ball battle and raced back down to the other end of the field to create an offensive possession for UMass.

“[O’Leary has] a tremendous desire to be that two-way guy that we’re asking him to be,” Cannella said. “To be able to play defense, offense, play between the lines, clear the ball for us, … [he] just has a terrific attitude towards improving every day as well.”

Matt Knote and the Minutemen defense stepped their game up against a lethal Sharks attacking unit, putting pressure on the ball carrier and trying to get them to make mistakes and turn the ball over. With so many issues tracking the ball on Saturday it was important to limit the scoring chances, and UMass did just that. Even through the elements, Knote still finished with nine saves.

“It’s definitely something to get used to … you just got to stay in there and try to see all the way through,” Knote said of playing through the bad weather. “Definitely had to talk more because with the snow … the ball is flying around and you can’t see it too much so if one guy is looking away, he doesn’t know [where the ball is].”

The Minutemen also performed well in transition on Saturday. They weren’t able to complete long passes in the poor conditions but instead leaned on individual efforts to bring the ball up the field. That proved successful as UMass only failed two clears in 19 attempts, while LIU’s reliance on long outlet passes caused it to successfully complete 13 of its 22 clears.

Caleb Hammett struggled in the face-off circle against the Sharks, but Zach Hochman picked up some of the slack, winning six of his 13 draws in the second half. Every time Hochman won a face-off he wanted to stay on the field for offense but was taken off in favor of an offensive midfielder. Eager to contribute in the attacking zone, the junior won a face-off to himself and carried the ball straight towards the crease before firing a shot past Mark and scoring his first goal of the season.

“[Hochman] to be quite honest has struggled this year a little bit with confidence,” Cannella said. “It’s always great to see guys go out there and muck it up a little bit, and fortunately for him he scored that goal and won some important face-offs for us … you root for guys on your team to do well and have immense confidence in themselves.”

UMass returns to Garber Field on Wednesday for a matchup against Vermont. Face-off is set for 1 p.m.

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