Men’s lacrosse notebook: UMass falls 12-9 to Towson on the road

Tigers’ snap Minutemen’s five-game win streak

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Eva Trainer / Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

For the first time since March 5, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team trotted off the field with no celebration or cheering. After winning five straight games, No. 20 UMass (6-4, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) saw that streak snapped by Towson on Saturday.

The Tigers (5-6, 2-0 CAA) controlled the pace of play from the opening whistle to the final one, and although a few tense moments left the Minutemen with hope that a comeback could be on the horizon, Towson was always one step ahead. It shut the door on UMass time and time again before ultimately securing a 12-9 win.

Minutemen struggle against Tigers’ two-man attack

Sam Eisenstadt and the Minutemen defensive have been an effective unit this season, consistently holding opposing offenses under their season average in goals per game. But on Saturday, Kyle Berkeley and James Avanzato broke past the defense using their speed and isolation dodges and beat Knote three times each on their way to a win.

Avanzato finished with five points, adding two assists onto his hat trick. Berkeley totaled one less point but was the catalyst for momentum-swinging goals multiple times. His first score of the day came from an outside roll dodge that freed up enough space for Berkeley to leave his feet and fire a low-angle shot through past Knote’s stick. Berkeley pumped his bench up with that goal in the first quarter and did so again in the final frame when he attacked the same side of the crease again and potted an even tougher shot to earn his hat trick.

UMass couldn’t contain the dynamic duo and as a result Berkeley and Avanzato accounted for nine of Towson’s points and half its goals on Saturday.

Offense too slow for too long

The Minutemen took a slow and methodical approach to their offense against the Tigers; they didn’t try and capitalize on many unsettled situations, instead hitting the brakes and waiting to get the proper personnel on the field.

In doing so, UMass bet on its ability to outmatch Towson man-for-man, but that didn’t work out for the Minutemen on Saturday. They were held to under 10 goals and even though a few people put together strong performances, as a team UMass failed to generate offense at an efficient rate while the ball was settled.

The Minutemen attempted 39 shots, and while 25 of them were on target, only nine snuck past Tigers goaltender Shane Brennan. Mike Tobin popped up as a consistent facilitator, finishing his day with three assists to go along with his lone goal, and Gabriel Procyk and Kevin Tobin each scored twice, but that trio couldn’t spark enough offense on their own to beat Towson.

UMass comes up empty on extra-man offense

The offensive struggles got worse for the Minutemen when yellow laundry hit the field. The Tigers sat in the box five separate times through 60 minutes, but UMass didn’t capitalize on any of the ensuing man-up possessions that could have brought it closer to tying the game.

The Minutemen couldn’t get shots off on some of the opportunities, throwing the ball away or putting it on the dirt before getting into their set plays. On those occasions, Towson easily trotted down the field and played keep away from UMass to drain the remaining seconds off its penalty before returning to even strength. And the times where the Minutemen did find a shot weren’t any more effective, they just ended with the ball in Brennan’s goalie stick rather than in the safe hands of a defender.

UMass’ extra-man attack was very efficient during its non-conference schedule, highlighted by a 7-of-8 performance on man-up against UMass Lowell. Since CAA play began on April 2, the Minutemen haven’t earned as many EMO opportunities but are 1-8 over their last two contests.

Specialists are still special

Neither Caleb Hammett nor Matt Knote played their best game of the season against the Tigers, but both continued to show positive signs at their positions. Hammett finished the day winning 13-23 face offs, good for a 56.5-win percentage. The sophomore won six face-off wins in the final quarter and only lost one draw during that time, giving the ball to UMass every chance he could when it needed to make a rally late in the game.

Knote finished with 12 saves and 12 goals allowed on Saturday, and although he had difficulty stopping shots up high, the junior shook that off and still made crucial stops. His best save of the afternoon came on a Towson breakaway that left Knote all alone trying to stop a Tiger attackman. Knote stuffed the breakaway shot with his body, remaining in a perfect position in the crease and not falling for any head and body fakes along the way.

Knote remained calm and collected after making the key stop, picking the ball up and heaving it right back down the field to create a chance the other way for the Minutemen. Although UMass was out-matched by Towson on Saturday, Knote and Hammett won individual battles over the course of the game that can carry over into games later this season.

UMass returns home to Garber Field on Saturday, April 16 for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against Fairfield.

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