No time to relax: No. 6 UMass too much to handle

Sports Editor
Monday, March 5, 2012

The men’s lacrosse team put up a fight Saturday but ultimately did not have enough to overtake No. 6 University of Massachusetts  at Meister-Kavan Field. The undefeated Minutemen (4-0) never trailed, scoring twice in the opening few minutes and displaying a skilled attack and staunch defensive backline en route to a 12-7 win.

The Bears (1-1) outshot UMass and pushed the offensive but were frustrated by the strong play of UMass goalie Tim McCormack (15 saves). Several shots also went off the wrong side of the post. On the other end of the field, Will Round ’14 made a number of clutch saves for the Bears but could only do so much to repel a clinical Minuteman attack led by hat trick scorers Art Kell and Anthony Biscardi.

“We lose by five, but our clearing game did well, our faceoffs were pretty good and we battled for ground balls,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “I think it just comes down to the shooting. I thought UMass buried their chances and they were more opportunistic when they had a good look at the cage.”

UMass jumped out to a strong start with goals from Colin Fleming and Biscardi in the first 2:30 of the game. But after that, things settled down. Despite a number of chances and an up-tempo feel, neither defense budged much in the early going. Dan O’Brien ’12 scored the Bears’ only goal of the half to cut the lead to 2-1 before a pair of UMass goals in the second quarter extended the Minuteman advantage to 4-1 at halftime.

Brown had a number of chances that could have easily gone the other way and made it a different game at the first half. Co-captain Rob Schlesinger ’12 was the most aggressive attacker, firing off a number of shots that missed narrowly wide and another that clanged off the crossbar. Brown also appeared to have scored a goal with only 22 seconds left before halftime, but after conferring over a whistle that was blown right before the ball went into the net, the officials disallowed the score.

“Even if (Schlesinger) doesn’t score, he’s always causing havoc,” said Roger Ferguson ’13. “He’s a true two-way middie, which you don’t see often anymore. He’s on our first-line offense and if we turn the ball over, he’s the first one back every time.”

In the second half, the game opened up and both sides began to convert chances. UMass again came out strong in the early moments of the quarter, and this time built a comfortable lead to create some breathing room. Two goals in 1:14 from Biscardi and Kyle Smith extended the lead to 6-1 only five minutes into the half.

But the Bears finally got their offense going and responded. With 4:40 left in the quarter, co-captain Parker Brown ’12 scored his first goal of the game on the doorstep after a good look from Nick Piroli ’15, who was circling behind the net. Less than a minute later, Sam Hurster ’14 fought through traffic alongside the edge of the net and beat McCormack for an unassisted goal to cut the deficit to 6-3.

“We pressed out more defensively, which is not our style of play,” Tiffany said. “We were starting to lose, so we had to start taking some chances.”

“Both teams made their adjustments,” Ferguson said. “We did some things that were working against them and they did some things they knew would work against us. You expect to see that in a defensive game. You expect to see people make changes and bring different personnel in to mix up the flow of the game.”

But after Hurster’s score, UMass scored a pair to extend its lead back to five goals. An unassisted Stephen Loudon ’15 goal early in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 8-4, but UMass responded again with two goals. Kell and Will Manny scored only 25 seconds apart to make the score 10-4 and effectively put the game out of reach with nine minutes to play.

The teams traded goals the rest of the way. Parker Brown scored three times in the final five minutes to give him a game-high four goals on the day, while Kell secured his hat trick with the final goal of the game, an empty net finish with 37 seconds remaining to make the final score 12-7.

“We step away from this disappointed that we lost,” Tiffany said. “But having said that, we did a lot of things well. If we finish more shots and maybe their goalie doesn’t play so well, it’s a different outcome. We played with the No. 6 team in the country and yes, they’re better than us, but the differences are minimal. Now, we have to learn from this.”

The squad only has a few days to recoup, as a midweek home matchup against Hartford (0-3) awaits Wednesday afternoon. The Hawks edged out Brown 8-6 in Connecticut last season and will come to Providence on a quick turnaround as well, having lost a tight matchup against University of Denver (3-1) Saturday. 

“It’s not good to lose, but it’s good to learn from your losses,” Ferguson said. “I think we’ll go back from this and learn from this, watch film and figure out what we did wrong to get better for our next game.”

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