NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 14 UMass (Men)

PHOTO COURTESY OF UMASS ATHLETICS


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Dec. 17. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 14 UMass

2019 Record: 10-5 (4-1, Colonial Athletic Association)
Coach: Greg Cannella (26th year)
Assistants: Doc Schneider, Craig McDonald, Isaac Paparo
All-Time Record: 555-308-3
NCAA Appearances: 20
Final Fours: 1
Championships: 0

2020 Schedule

Date

Opponent

Feb. 8 @ Army
Feb. 15 @ Ohio State
Feb. 22 Harvard
Feb. 25 @ UMass Lowell
Feb. 29 Yale
March 3 Albany
March 10 Long Island U.
March 14 Utah*
March 21 @ Brown
March 28 @ Drexel
April 4 Hofstra
April 11 Towson
April 18 @ Fairfield
April 24 @ Delaware

* = neutral site

Save the Date
April 11

The Minutemen have taken three games in a row against Towson, and the teams have combined for seven of the Colonial Athletic Association’s last eight automatic bids. It’s possible this game in Amherst ultimately determines who plays host to the conference tournament this spring.

Offensive Returns Could Help Overshadow Defensive Losses

Massachusetts enjoys an enviable amount of offensive continuity from a team that landed the No. 1 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

The Minutemen can certainly put it to use as they fill two huge holes on defense.

Gone are defenseman Isaac Paparo, the 2018 CAA Player of the Year, and Sean Sconone, a first-team All-American goalie who led the country in save percentage at 61.3 and went on to earn Major League Lacrosse Goalie of the Year honors as a rookie with the Dallas Rattlers.

That’s a lot of production, and perhaps even more leadership.

As that end of the field sorts itself out, coach Greg Cannella has the luxury of deploying offensive personnel who are already established. Chris Connolly, Gabriel Procyk and Devin Spencer combined for all but one of the Minutemen’s starts on attack.

Meanwhile, midfielders Jeff Trainor and Kevin Tobin are coming off 20-goal seasons, while Kevin Cutinella and Charlie O’Brien both played extensively last year. There’s also Billy Philpott, an ace defensive midfielder who scored 16 goals in a two-way role as a junior.

“Hopefully we can score at a rate that allows us to be in games again this year,” Cannella said. “The experience that guys like Trainor and O’Brien and Philpott and Chris Connolly and Gabe Procyk and Devin Spencer and those guys bring can help us play together and share the ball. We want them to play as a unit rather than think about how explosive they can be.”

Perhaps the most interesting tie for the Minutemen’s balanced offense stems from its top two attackmen. Connolly and Procyk are far more familiar with each other than a typical junior-sophomore tandem. They played together for a season at the Trinity-Pawling School, and also have the benefit of working off each other last spring.

Connolly assisted in 12 of Procyk’s 35 goals, a number that could easily increase this season as Procyk returns to campus after a summer of playing box lacrosse in his native British Columbia.

“The communication that happens between those guys when you play together for a few years, it’s sort of unspoken, right?” Cannella said. “They can just nod and just say a few words to each other and play well with the ball and without the ball and away from each other as well.”

UMass returns two starting defensemen, so there isn’t a complete lack of experience down low despite Paparo’s graduation. There’s no way around breaking in an inexperienced goalie, with redshirt-freshman Dom Elmo and true freshman Matt Knote in contention for the job.

Given time, those areas could very well emerge as strengths. It’s up to Connolly, Procyk and the rest of the offense to help provide that time in the early stages of the Minutemen’s season.






z

Projected Starters

A – Chris Connolly – Jr. – 26 G, 35 A
A – Gabriel Procyk – So. – 35 G, 4 A
A – Devin Spencer – Sr. – 17 G, 11 A
M – Jeff Trainor – Sr. – 22 G, 13 A
M – Kevin Tobin – Jr. – 20 G, 21 A
M – Charlie O’Brien – Sr. – 9 G, 4 A
FO – Tyler Green – Jr. – 57.1 FO%, 9 GB
LSM – Dan O’Brien – Sr. – 30 GB, 11 CT
SSDM – Billy Philpott – Sr. – 16 G, 17 GB
D – Jackson Suboch – Sr. – 14 GB, 17 CT
D – Sam Eisenstadt – Jr. – 20 GB, 10 CT
D – Jake Dulac – Fr.
G – Dom Elmo – R-Fr.

Tewaaraton Watch
Chris Connolly, A, Jr.

The first UMass sophomore to reach the 100-point plateau since Jim McAleavey did so in 1989, Connolly is a former CAA Rookie of the Year who had 50 points as a freshman and another 63 last spring. He’ll again be one of the top table-setters in New England and, quite possibly, the country.

X Factor
Tyler Green, FO, Jr.

Much like last year, the Minutemen must replace a strong faceoff man after Tom Meyers won 62.1 percent of his draws last year. Green was 16-for-28 in limited action last season and was hurt much of the fall. Nolan Enneguess won 51.6 percent of his faceoffs as Stony Brook’s primary man at the X, while Zack Hochman is a promising newcomer. “Initially, it may be by committee, unless someone establishes themselves as a standout guy,” Cannella said.

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 16th 12.73 GPG
Defense 3rd 8.87 GAA
Faceoffs 13th 60.9%
Ground Balls 28th 32.53/game
Caused TO 15th 9.6/game
Shooting 25th 29.6%
Man-Up 9th 43.8%
Man-Down 20th 68.8%

11.0

UMass loses just 11.0 percent of its goals (21 of 191) from last season. The Minutemen saw only four of the 18 players who scored a goal last season depart, with Ben Spencer (12) and Isaac Paparo (7) the only multi-goal scorers to graduate.

Enemy Lines

“What makes them particularly scary this year is they've got that combination of toughness they always play with in addition to elite offensive players. That combination of the UMass toughness and now skilled playmakers on the offensive end is going to make them very dangerous.”

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