Inside Lacrosse Previews No. 18 UMass
Jan. 27, 2010
By David Brinch
January weather in western Massachusetts is hardly predictable.
But for coach Greg Cannella and the Massachusetts lacrosse team, it has worked out in their favor. With just a few snow days, the Minutemen have had a successful start to spring practice, hoping to get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 after falling in the first round to Princeton a year ago after winning the ECAC title.
"Early on we fight a lot of different things," Cannella said. "We fight the weather, the cold, we fight minor injuries, and you fight guy's kind of getting back into the swing of things, not just with lacrosse but with school as well."
The Minutemen face St. John's this Saturday at Garber Field in their first scrimmage of the 2010 season, and take on Army at West Point Feb. 6.
UMass scrimmaged the Black Knights last season, and defeated the Red Storm 12-6 last season after back-to-back wins against Loyola (Md.) and Penn State.
Interview: Coach Greg Cannella
Midfield shaping up
While losing significant players to graduation in the midfield like Evan Blum (14 goals, 8 assists), Rory Pedrick (12 goals, six assists) and face-off man Joe Reale, UMass will still generate goals with senior captain Bobby Hayes coming back. Hayes played in all 15 games last season, scoring 12 goals and notching 14 assists while registering 16 ground balls.
Along with Hayes, junior Ryan Hantverk (four goals, one assist) will play a larger role in the team's offense. Junior Ryan Liebel has had an impressive spring, as Cannella has used him in the top eight of his rotation, and hasn't ruled out using him on attack this season. As for underclassmen, sophomore Anthony Biscardi, freshman Colin Fleming and freshman Kirk "K.R." Jurgelevich have made strides and have improved their collegiate game.
In his freshman season, Art Kell was one of the best young attackman in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Starting all 15 games for the Minutemen, Kell had 11 goals and three assists, including 19 ground balls. But with the loss of both Jim Connolly and Tim Balise, Kell will look to sophomores Steve D'Amario, Mike Fetterly and Fleming. Junior Mike Wilus could see his minutes increase after playing in three games last season, while freshmen Kyle and Ryan Smith both will have opportunities to compete.
Goalkeeper Situation a Toss Up
Cannella has still yet to make a decision on whether sophomore goalie Tim McCormack or freshman Steve Mahle will replace Tewaaraton Trophy final nominee Doc Schneider in net. "Those guys have played very well, and somedays, they shut us down in scrimmages and six-on-six stuff, [they're] competing, both of them," Cannella said. "I think both of them understand that the job is still up for someone to grab it, and most likely we will find out in the first couple of scrimmages."
Both are big kids, and have dropped a considerable amount of weight to get into playing shape, according to Cannella. "They both know what's on the line for them, so it's a great situation for us." "It's not a great situation when we finally make that decision, whose going to start, and whose not going to start, but we have confidence in both of them which is a great thing."
Cannella has brought on the All-American Schneider as an assistant coach this season, benefiting not only both goalkeepers but the entire team.
"Doc brings a lot to the table as a guy who not only our guys respect, but a guy that Kevin and I respect a lot and what he represents, and he's going to be a great coach," Cannella said.
Mark Dixon's Thoughts