Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

McCarthy: UMass men’s lacrosse has the pieces for an NCAA Tournament run

Minutemen offense is firing on all cylinders to start the season
Eva Trainer/ Daily Collegian (2021)

The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team turned back the clock to start the 2023 season. The Minutemen (2-0) are firing on all cylinders, and their first two games are the best I’ve seen them look since the cancelled 2020 season, the year they hit their stride just as the pandemic shut sports down.

A lot of credit should be cast on the defense for bringing them to the 2-0 start, Matt Knote has played out of his mind and been an incredible goaltender for over two years. But to me, the most promising trait of this Minutemen team is that they’re winning games even without playing perfect lacrosse.

In 2022, there were a lot of positives, but an equal amount of inconsistency. At its best, UMass was unstoppable. But if the Minutemen struggled on offense or defense, they usually didn’t win that game. In 2023, the offense picks up whenever the defense needs it, and vice versa for the offense.

Against UMass Lowell on Friday afternoon, UMass’ offense struggled at times. How did the defense respond? By keeping the River Hawks (0-2) off the scoreboard for over 25 minutes between the first and second quarter. As soon as the Minutemen started racking up goals, they pulled away and earned a dominant 11-3 victory. Prior to that, in the season opener against Army, the UMass defense came out a little flat in the second half. The offense immediately picked up the slack and rattled off five fourth quarter goals to secure the win.

The key factor that makes these wins even more meaningful: the Minutemen have not played a complete game yet. They’re turning the ball over too much, face offs aren’t consistent yet, and overall they aren’t in mid-season form, but they’re still making the necessary plays to win games and gain confidence early in the season.

UMass has pretty much cleared the feeling out process already. It has clear strengths, namely defense, goaltending and depth scoring. Minutemen coach Greg Cannella also knows what his weaknesses are, and can address them early. He knows he wants more consistency in the offensive end, and that starts with strong leadership. And who better to lead UMass than the newest member of the 100 goals club, Gabriel Procyk?

Procyk is a less vocal leader and is more inclined to lead by example. It seems like that shouldn’t be a problem for him, seeing as he just scored four goals in Friday’s win. But he’ll need to do more than just score, he has to use his voice and settle the people around him.

The Minutemen are loaded with offensive talent that can score. But there is some inexperience and some mental mistakes to work through. Shane O’Leary and Dillon Arrant are the best examples of that; they are gifted scorers that just need a little bit more control. Procyk can help get them there by settling the rock and moving with tempo. Whether he has the ball or not, the offense runs through him, and it’s better off that way.

If the Minutemen can clean up their small errors and continue to lean on their strengths, they’re heading towards their best season in recent memory. Cannella and UMass haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2018, but with a new conference and newfound confidence, a national postseason berth is well within reach.

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

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