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

Offense stalls in UMass’ 11-5 loss to Rutgers on Saturday

Matt Knote records 20 saves for the Minutemen
Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian (2023)

Saturday was a new chapter of the same story for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team: a solid defensive effort spoiled by inefficient and ineffective offense.

No. 6 Rutgers came into Saturday’s matchup averaging 15 goals per game, and though UMass (4-3) held the Scarlet Knights (7-1) well below that average, the Minutemen still lost 11-5 at Garber Field.

“Really disappointed in the outcome,” head coach Greg Cannella said after the game. “I thought we played a pretty good game, great defensively, great in the goal … Rutgers is a really good team, they were a final four team last year and they have final four aspirations this year.”

Matt Knote did his part in keeping UMass within striking distance, standing tall against an overwhelming number of shots by Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights attempted 53 total shots and put 31 of those on net, but Knote responded with 20 saves, 10 within the first 22 minutes of action.

Advanced analytics have Knote as the best goaltender in the country, and his consistency and confidence between the pipes make him a player the Minutemen can depend on.

“It does feel [like Knote is the best goalie in the country],” Cannella said. “I feel that way, a lot of us feel that way here, and it just gives our defense an opportunity to feel confident in what they do on the field knowing if they get beat or are late to a slide, that he’s going to save the ball for them.”

UMass’ entire defensive group has been effective this season, and a lot of that credit is given to assistant coach Noah Fossner’s meticulous preparation and attention to detail on that side of the ball.

“He does a great job with knowing matchups and having us play to their weaknesses every week,” Knote said of Fossner’s impact. “He really cares about all of us so he does whatever he can to put us in the right spots and make our lives a little easier.”

Of the 11 goals the Scarlet Knights scored, only seven came from settled offensive possessions. Rutgers added one in an empty net late in the game and capitalized on a few more opportunities when the Minutemen failed clears, turned the ball over or made mental mistakes.

“You can’t give them opportunities,” Cannella said of Rutgers. “Those are the extra possessions you can’t give them and the opportunities they can’t get.”

The second quarter was a turning point in the game that gave the Scarlet Knights control through the rest of the contest. UMass failed to register a shot on goal during those 15 minutes — part of a 28 minute scoring drought — and in that time Rutgers rattled off five goals. The Minutemen went into the quarter with a 3-2 lead but left it trailing 7-3 and never recovered.

“I thought we unraveled just a little bit,” Cannella said. “We were able to pull it back together a little bit, but we just couldn’t finish the ball on the other side.”

Offensively, no UMass player scored more than once on the Scarlet Knights, and Gabriel Procyk was the only Minuteman with multiple points. He assisted Grant Breyo on an open step-down shot in the first quarter and was the first UMass player to break through Rutgers goaltender Kyle Mullin in the second half. Will Abbott, Dillon Arrant and Ryan Fitzpatrick added the other three goals for UMass.

Being held to two goals in the final three quarters of play was a step in the wrong direction for the offensive group as a whole, and Cannella is still searching for the players that can be most effective for him on that side of the ball. Mike Tobin bounced around between the midfield and attack but ended his day without a goal  and the team committed 16 turnovers compared to 12 by the Scarlet Knights.

Now at the midway point of the season, Cannella and the Minutemen are still trying to turn the corner and get more productivity and goal scoring out of their lineup.

“We’re averaging in the low thirties on shots, we need to get that up to the forties,” Cannella said. “But, if that’s who we are, if we’re a grind out team then we have to be a grind out team, go deep into possessions and be more disciplined.”

Up next for UMass is a home matchup against Brown, who received top-20 votes in the most recent USILA poll. Face-off for that matchup is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 at Garber Field.

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

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