McCarthy: Too many cooks in UMass’ kitchen offensively

Minutemen lose 18-10 to Towson in CAA semifinal

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

No single star outweighed the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s collective offensive efforts this season. The hallmark of this year’s UMass (8-6, 3-2 Colonial Athletic Association) squad was its depth, the kind of depth it hasn’t seen in a long time.

The attacking trio of Kevin Tobin, Gabriel Procyk and Logan Liljeberg usually played well. Midfielders cycled in and out over the course of games as well as the overall season. Mike Tobin had his chance in the spotlight, as did Tim Hoynes, Grant Breyo, James Caddigan and Aidan Kaminska. So many different players guided the Minutemen to the CAA postseason. But on Thursday night against Towson, they could have used a single star to propel them when things got difficult. And there wasn’t anybody there to answer the call.

The postseason requires some level of individual dominance in addition to team lacrosse. The Tigers were a perfect example of that with their star player Nick DeMaio scoring five goals and adding two assists on top of that. The Towson offense ran through him, and other players got better looks because of his dominance.

UMass’ leading goal scorer, on the other hand, was Aidan Kaminska, a recent addition to the offensive rotation who scored a hat trick. Liljeberg and K. Tobin each scored a pair of goals and Procyk added one, but nobody came close to taking over the game for the Minutemen in the way that DeMaio did for the Tigers.

Instead, UMass faced a constant struggle in the offensive zone. At times it looked completely outmatched by Towson’s bigger defenders. That size disparity gave K. Tobin and Liljeberg a hard time, and the normally potent duo had to create a majority of their opportunities with off-ball movement.

The undersized attackmen weren’t the only people struggling to create space, though. There were very few moments where a Minuteman beat his defender clean in isolation. Without that successful first move to gain leverage, UMass found itself firing shots from unfavorable locations on the field just to beat the shot clock. Outside of Kaminska’s ability to beat his short stick defender, nothing seemed to go right consistently for the Minutemen.

When the dust settled and the final horn sounded, UMass only put 18 shots on target. Even if it shot 100 percent over the course of the game, that low-volume of quality shots on goal wouldn’t have allowed it to win the game.

Having depth on offense is an incredible strength, but sometimes teams just need someone that they can trust to get a goal when they need it most. The Minutemen haven’t had that this season. Different players stepped up big at different times, but across the season they didn’t have a go-to player winning isolation matchups and creating offense for themselves and others.

The talent on UMass’ offense is undeniable. As a whole unit they were one of the best in the CAA. But while the lack of offense on Thursday was relatively unexpected, it was also relatively unsurprising given the way the season played out.

The Minutemen were right in multiple games this season that could have gone their way. In the regular season, they lost to Army by one goal, lost to Yale in overtime and narrowly lost to Towson, 12-9. They stayed within reach in all three contests but didn’t have a person down the stretch to go and get those crucial late goals.

UMass was built to play in front of teams this season. They protected leads with their depth, but once they fell behind, a comeback became that much more difficult because of the score by committee playstyle. On Thursday, Towson’s X-factor player gave it the momentum required to play with a lead and send the Minutemen home early in the CAA semifinals.

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