Fallball Check-In: UMass Minutemen
The 2010 season was disappointing for them as they only went 8-6 while losing four out of their last five games as the injury bug caught up to them. The only win in the final five games was against a Georgetown squad in the ESPNU Warrior Shootout in Hartford, Conn. In those four losses, they failed to score more then nine goals in each of those games.
UMass loses All-American defenseman Diogo Godoi who was the team leader last season while anchoring a defense that gave up an average of 10.07 goals per game last season. The UMass man-down unit was the worst in the CAA last season checking in at .453 percentage.
The Minutemen return two-thirds of the defensive squad with senior Travis Tripucka and junior Tom Celentani. Tripucka comes from a strong bloodline as his father Kelly Tripucka was an NBA All-Star while his grandfather Frank Tripucka played in the NFL, CFL, and the AFL. The other spot is currently wide open but the early favorite is sophomore Ryan Hollenbach from Glastonbury CT. He appeared in ten games last season serving as a backup and mostly on man down situations.
"There is going to be a drop off in fall ball when you graduate players like Diogo Godoi, You expect your sophomores like Ryan Hollenbaugh to step up and fill the gap," coach Greg Cannella said.
The Minutemen return four of the top five scorers from last season losing only Bobby Hayes to graduation. They return their three stars from last years attack in juniors Art Kell, Anthony Biscardi and sophomore Will Manny. Last season, Kell suffered a foot injury against Hofstra in the eighth game of the season. Even with the injury, he finished second on the team with 21 goals while picking up 12 assists. Anthony Biscardi had a solid campaign in finishing second on the team in scoring with 35 points with 21 goals and 14 assists. Undersized sophomore Will Manny ended up leading the team with 45 points (27 goals and 18 assists).
"Both Will Manny and Art Kell are very good players," Coach Cannella continued, "We need to keep both players healthy and they play well together as one is a lefty and the other is a righty. Other players are going to have to score off of them."
Johns Hopkins transfer Matt Palasek was impressive in the scrimmage on Friday scoring two goals and setting up the attack well. He appeared in five games with the Blue Jays but didn't register any points. If he can relieve the combination of Manny, Kell, and Biscardi then the Minutemen's attack will be formidable.
IMPROVING AT THE X
UMass finished last season winning only 52.3 percent of faceoffs which was second to worst in the CAA last season. Junior Greg Rushing led the team with at 57.2 percent taking 243 out of 348 team faceoffs. Junior Anthony Toresco backed him up by winning only 38.5 percent in the other 96 faceoffs will provide depth. Both players will need to improve on their winning percentage next season.
Coach Cannella was not happy with the team's performance at the faceoff X at the alumni scrimmage as the team struggled with transition defense with the alumni getting many easy goals off them.
"We struggled tonight with our transition defense," Cannela continued "No one stepped up tonight to take charge. It isn't complicated to make sure you stop the ball in transition."
The two potential impact freshmen this year for the Minutemen are attackman Connor Mooney and midfielder Ryan Izzo. Mooney is from Wilbraham MA and Avon Old Farms where he was a Top 40 attackman. Ryan Izzo starred at Walpole (MA) High School on the football and lacrosse fields. He ended up turning down multiple Division 1 football offers to head to Amherst to play lacrosse. He finished his high school football career with 722 points which is a state record while finishing second in the state with 6,316 rushing yards. On the lacrosse field, he was a standout player at Walpole High School leading them to the 2009 State Championship. This past summer, he was named All-ESPN Rise Games team after an outstanding tournament.
The Minutemen every season welcome back the alumni to play against the varsity. The game is usually played at a high level with several former All-Americans coming back, including Jack Reid, Kevin Leveille, Sean Morris, and UMass assistant coach Doc Schneider in goal. Having Schneider in goal against the players he coaches every day is interesting. There was several times in the game Friday night where he was trash talking with the varsity players.
After the game was over, Coach Cannella made a point to see each member of the alumni squad and thank them for coming out on a Friday night with their busy schedules.
The Minutemen are currently trying to set up a "night" game at Garber Field for the spring.
"It's something we've done in the past, obviously it is something we have to do late in the season. We have to have someone to agree to it though," Cannella said.
UMass will continue fall practice with another scrimmage coming on October 23rd at Stony Brook before they take a break until spring practice starts up in January.