Check out these previews of UMass playing in the ESPNU Warrior Classic, taking on long-time rival Hofstra on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Lacrosse: Four-team league tourneys here to stayby Eddie Timanus on Apr. 21, 2011, under USA Today Sports
Minutemen continue to have success in overtime
Overtime is one of the more successful periods for the Massachusetts men's lacrosse team.
The Minutemen are currently riding a two-game winning streak in overtime periods, both of which were capped off with Kyle Smith scoring the winning goal. Between the two victories against Towson and Drexel, UMass has competed in an extra quarter's worth of competition.
"I'd rather win the game in regulation," said UMass coach Greg Cannella. "You go into overtime and the game changes. It's sudden victory and there's a lot of pressure on both teams."
With the Minutemen facing Hofstra on Saturday in the ESPNU Warriors Classic, Cannella said that his team might have ample experience to come out with a victory if the team gets pressured into another overtime thriller.
"We're happy we were able to persevere in the last two and if it comes again, the guys have that experience and that vision of success within those game shows they've done it before," said Cannella. "Again, we'd rather play well and have to play 60 minutes and not play the extra periods."
Historically, UMass has found success in overtime games as it has won seven of its last eight extra-time affairs. After falling 9-8 to Yale in 2004, the team went on a tear to win the next seven of eight, save for its 10-9 overtime loss to Albany back in 2007.
With experience in overtime, Cannella has formed his own strategy for the extra periods, which includes keeping the team composed and not allowing anyone to try and be the hero.
"I always tell the guys, 'Don't change the way you play,'" said Cannella. "You get into those situations and guys feel like they have to be the guy to win it or be the guy that makes the defensive play. When you do that, more so with our game because it is sudden victory, you may end up trying to do too much."
Cannella cited the Minutemen's recent victory against Drexel as an example of how he keeps his team composed. When Anthony Biscardi claimed the ball, all eyes were on him to shoot. Instead, Biscardi dished the ball off to Smith for an attempt. Although Smith's ball was saved, Biscardi still sacrificed personal glory for the sake of the team.
"He didn't change the way he played," said Cannella. "He didn't say, 'I'm going to score this one because I want to be the hero.' You tell the guys, 'Hey, don't try to be the hero, just be yourself and continue to do what you do.'"
Smith eventually found the back of the net against the Dragons, which was his second-consecutive overtime goal. The first came against Towson, as Smith scored with 1:55 left on the clock to push UMass to a 9-8 victory.
Smith is one of three Minutemen that have not only scored a goal in the overtime period, but also have a familiar background to the Maroon and White. Smith is the son of former UMass All-American Norm Smith.
Former UMass player Jim Connolly - son of Steve Connolly, who captained the 1969 undefeated squad - had one of the more memorable overtime goals as he secured a victory over Hofstra in the NCAA Quarterfinals back in 2006. Connolly received a pass from Brett Garber for the goal.
Connolly also notched another overtime goal in 2009 as his blast notched a 7-6 victory over Hobart.
Garber had his own overtime goal in 2007 as he scored on his grandfather's field, but also defeated Penn State in the process. Garber, as his name dictates, is the grandson of UMass legend Richard Garber.
Though it was a non-conference game at the time, the Nittany Lions became a familiar face for the Minutemen when UMass joined the CAA.
"It's a pretty cool thing," said Cannella on the legacy relation. "Those guys will be able to reflect and revel in that stuff after this season and after their careers are over. Especially a guy like Kyle, he's probably not thinking about that right now. Jimmy and Brett, boy, what great memories that is for those guys and their families."
As the Minutemen head into their game on Saturday, practice has gone as usual. Though Cannella said that when players are tired, as they might be after an extra quarter's amount of work in overtime minutes, coaches will ask players whether they're good to compete and practice.
"I think after 22 years, you get to know your team a little bit and have experience with [overtime]," said Cannella. "Naturally guys are going to be warn down and you have to be aware of that. If we think they're struggling, they're sucking wind, we'll back off of them."
Minutemen look to continue winning streak
In its final road game of the regular season, the Massachusetts men's lacrosse team heads on the road to East Hartford, Conn. to face Colonial Athletic Association opponent Hofstra in a battle of ranked teams on Saturday.
The No. 15-ranked Minutemen (8-3, 3-1 CAA) will put their three-game winning streak on the line following consecutive overtime victories. UMass' Kyle Smith once again provided the game-winner in an 11-10 victory over Drexel last Saturday in a triple overtime thriller.
Despite trailing 10-6 in the third quarter, UMass formed a late surge in the final frame to send the contest to extra time. The contest marked one of many games this season in which the Minutemen have had to rally out of a deficit to claw out a win, a situation UMass coach Greg Cannella would like to see less of.
"You try to go up-tempo in practice and not have any lulls in practice," said Cannella. "We seem to have those in each game we've played this year. I don't think we've played in a game where we didn't have a lull. So it's kind of continuing to keep the guys aware of that."
Going against a stout team in Hofstra, the Minutemen likely won't have the same leeway that they've had the past two weeks. The No. 8-ranked Pride (11-1, 3-1 CAA) hold the best overall record in the conference and dropped their only game this season at the hands of CAA foe Delaware, which sits atop the CAA with a perfect 4-0 record.
After attempting to contain Drexel's Scott Perri, the leading goal scorer in the conference (30 goals), last week, UMass will have to deal with Hofstra's trio of Jamie Lincoln, Jay Card and Stephen Bentz on Saturday. Lincoln and Card rank behind Perri in the CAA in scoring at No. 2 and No. 3 with 25 and 23 goals, respectively.
"We always talk about limiting guys and not letting guys get off in the game on you, score four or five goals," said Cannella. "I think if you limit those guys, I think you're doing a pretty good job because they're very talented."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Pride have allowed the fewest goals this season of any team in the conference. Boasting a 6.17 goals against average, Hofstra holds nearly a two-goal difference between it and the next best defense in the CAA in Penn State (8.07). In fact, the Pride defense has yet to allow an opponent to reach double digits in scoring in a contest this season, a rare feat in Division I men's lacrosse.
Cannella will look for his offense to change that but outside factors could play a role in UMass' attack.
"We're going to have to play as this game goes," said Cannella. "The weather could be a factor in terms of footing, it's a grass field so is the game fast or is the game slow? How does it turn out?"
In the all-time series between the Minutemen and the Pride, UMass leads 19-16. The Minutemen won the most recent matchup, upsetting then-No. 6 Hofstra, 11-9, at Garber Field on March 27, 2010. UMass was led by Art Kell, who recorded a hat trick, Will Manny, who had a goal and three assists, and Anthony Biscardi, who chipped in a pair of goals.
In 2006, the two teams met in the NCAA Quarterfinal, arguably the most significant game in UMass lacrosse history. The Minutemen dug themselves out of a five-goal hole in the fourth quarter to force overtime, which they claimed to advance to their first-ever NCAA Semifinal.
Saturday's contest is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start at Rentschler Field.