2021 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 14 UMass (Men)

PHOTO BY THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

UMass All-American Jeff Trainor’s evolution into a two-way midfielder coincided with the advent of the shot clock.


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Check back to USLaxMagazine.com each weekday for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

No. 14 UMass

2020 Record: 5-2
Pre-COVID Ranking: 16th

UMass midfielder Jeff Trainor says he feels in a sense as if he’s had two overlapping college lacrosse careers. The graduate student out of Billerica, Mass., who is entering his fifth and final season with the Minutemen, has a point.

When Trainor arrived in Amherst in the fall of 2016, he had graduated as the fourth-highest scorer ever at Billerica Memorial High. He quickly established himself as an offensive factor on the second midfield line.

Over his first two seasons, Trainor posted 72 points, including a 50-point breakout in 2018 that fueled UMass’ last ride into the NCAA tournament.

Back then, when the game was different, Trainor routinely subbed out, as the defensive midfield unit entered. After the NCAA made major rules changes, most prominently a long-awaited shot clock designed to open up and speed up the game, Trainor’s job description was altered.

Since the fall of 2018, Trainor has transformed from an outstanding offensive threat to a two-way midfielder who effects the game all over the field.

“I’ve been watching [UMass] film going back to my sophomore year. I wasn’t on the field playing defense,” Trainor said. “When I look at the way the game has changed now, I couldn’t imagine not playing on both sides, trying to dominate between the lines, being a QB on offense and getting back in the hole and setting the defensive tempo.”

Nike/USL Preseason Top 20
Team Previews

1. Duke 2. Syracuse 3. Maryland 4. Penn State
5. Virginia 6. North Carolina 7. Denver 8. Yale
9. Cornell 10. Notre Dame 11. Georgetown 12. Ohio State
13. Loyola 14. UMass 15. Army 16. Lehigh
17. Richmond 18. Penn 19. Rutgers 20. Johns Hopkins

Trainor’s last two seasons have reflected his expanded game. While alternating between the top two midfield lines, he totaled 24 goals and 13 assists in 2019 then paced the midfield with 14 goals and six helpers in last year’s shortened season. His defensive coverage and aggression have shined, evidenced in part by his combined 39 ground balls and 13 forced turnovers as a two-way player.

“Jeff was a guy we envisioned as a two-way middie, and he’s become the mold for the kind of midfielders we want to recruit,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella, who added that Trainor’s high school background as a skilled running back and linebacker in football and point guard in basketball helped to make versatility a big part of his lacrosse game.

“He just does everything well,” Cannella said. “He can really shoot it righty or lefty, he dodges hard, he’s really good at quarterbacking things. Riding hard gives him the chance to give it back [on defense] after taking hard hits on the arms and body [on offense].”

Trainor is a two-time All-American and All-CAA first teamer, a co-captain, a key in the UMass ride and its only midfielder to exceed 100 career points in the last 15 years. He is a constant threat to score or assist off the dodge. He is dangerous in a fast, free-flowing game.

“My transition game has flourished in ways that it couldn’t because I wasn’t on the field much in those situations,” Trainor said. “Now I find myself in the middle of the field with space to operate in. A lot of times, I’ve got another two-way middie on the field with me. This is my kind of game.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Chris Connolly, A, Sr.

He started his career as the second freshman in UMass history to score at least 50 points and has gotten better each season since. 

Jackson Suboch, D, Gr.

An NLL draft pick and excellent 6-5 cover guy, Suboch has started every game since the start of his sophomore year.

Jeff Trainor, M, Gr.

Do-it-all middie has a 50-point campaign under his belt and does not shy away from difficult defensive assignments.

KEY ADDITION

Mason Bregman, A, Fr.

Lefty out of Lenape High in Medford, N.J., led his team in scoring with 145 points combined in 2018 and 2019.

ENEMY LINES

“Just hard-nosed, relentless competitors. They’re guys who I think offensively are going to be really good by committee. Guys that have a whole bunch of different guys who can get a couple goals on you, Trainor being their best there. Defensively, win, lose, or draw, you’re going to know you’ve been in a game. They’re going to be very physical.”

NUMBERS GAME

3.58

Points per game produced by Chris Connolly over 38 contests. He has scored 61 goals and dished out 75 assists.  

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