No. 18 Massachusetts won a battle of momentum shifts with the No. 15 men's lacrosse team, 11–10, on a rain-soaked Tuesday afternoon. After twice being on the wrong end of one-goal games against the Bears in the past two years, the Minutemen walked off Meister-Kavan Field victorious in the old rivals' 45th meeting.
"It was a great lacrosse game," said Head Coach Lars Tiffany '90. "UMass is very good. We're a good lacrosse team. The last couple years the UMass-Brown battles have been one-goal games. We've been fortunate to come out on top. Today … they made one more play than us."
UMass (5–2) gained several opportunities to make that extra play by dominating in the faceoff circle. Just three days after Brown (3–2) secured 16 of the 27 face-offs in a 13–11 win over then-No. 11 Harvard, the Bears won only eight of the 24 faceoffs on Tuesday, and the Minutemen took advantage.
"The faceoff battle is always the key thing in a lacrosse game," said attacker Andrew Feinberg '11, who led all scorers with four goals. "But hopefully we can watch film and work on it, and we'll get better, I'm sure."
The first quarter was highlighted by strong defensive play, anchored by the two goalies. Matt Chriss '11 finished with 12 saves, while Tim McCormack posted 17 for UMass. Feinberg and attacker Thomas Muldoon '10, also a quad-captain, scored to give Brown a 2–1 lead going into the second quarter.
Attacker Parker Brown '12 extended the Bears' lead 3:18 into the second before the floodgates opened for the Minutemen. UMass parlayed securing six of the quarter's seven faceoffs into four straight goals, though Feinberg's second goal 10 seconds before halftime cut the deficit to 5–4.
"We definitely played the majority of the time on defense," Tiffany said. "We played decent team defense, and Matt Chriss was solid behind us. We played too much defense."
As the chilly rain became steadier, midfielders Reade Seligmann '10, also a quad-captain, and David Hawley '11 scored in the opening 7:20 of the third quarter to gain a 6–5 lead. But once again the Minutemen responded, scoring three goals in the next 4:16 to take an 8–6 lead.
The Bears counter-punched. After a goal by Hawley, Muldoon picked up a loose ball in the crease as McCormack sprawled to reach for it and tied the game at 8–8 with five seconds left in the third quarter. When Feinberg gave Bruno a 9–8 lead 2:26 into the fourth as the rain began to pound the field, the Bears appeared to be on the right track.
"Our offense is playing really well right now," Tiffany said. "We have a lot of confidence in our offense. We need to give the offense the ball. Losing those faceoffs allowed UMass to go on three-goal spurts where we didn't touch the ball much at all."
And the Minutemen did just that. When Bobby Hayes picked up a loose ball and fired a shot that found the net from long range to tie the game, UMass took control and scored twice more.
Brown faced an 11–9 deficit with one minute left. Feinberg scored again with 18 seconds left, as attacker Collins Carey '10 provided his third assist of the game, but the Bears lost the ensuing faceoff and time ran out on them.
"I'm proud of this team," Tiffany said. "It's a tough loss to swallow. … (UMass had) eight more possessions because of faceoffs, and we lost by one, so we obviously did a lot of good things otherwise."
But that will be small comfort when the Bears reflect on a game they could easily have won.
"We'll think about almost every play that could have made a difference — that could have changed the game," Tiffany said.
Both Tiffany and Feinberg said the weather was not a game-changer. They played in worse conditions in an 18–4 win at Saint Joseph's on March 13, and Tiffany said he was impressed with how few balls were dropped.
"We practice in this weather all the time, so we weren't surprised by it," Feinberg said. "We like to think we play better in this weather."
The Bears will face another stiff challenge when they travel to Durham, N.C., on Tuesday to take on No. 7 Duke. Brad Ross, who is in his first year as assistant coach, is fresh off a successful playing career for the Blue Devils, and the Bears will need any advantage he can give them.
"Our scouting report will be solid," Tiffany said. "The biggest challenge with Duke is their athleticism and their speed and their intensity. They will bring a ton of pressure and they will go hard to the (end). We'll have our work cut out for us. We'll have a lot to do to live up to that challenge."