The No. 20 men's lacrosse team suffered its first defeat Saturday, coming up short against the No. 9 University of Massachusetts at Amherst 9-6. The 50th game in the history of the regional rivalry went into halftime with the score all square, but the Minutemen (4-0) scored three-straight goals in the third quarter to build a 7-4 lead. From there, UMass never looked back and posted their fourth win of the season.
"We played against a very formidable opponent," said Head Coach Lars Tiffany '90. "UMass has earned the number nine ranking in the country and they proved to us why they were undefeated."
But the Bears (1-1) managed to find some positive indicators to take away from the loss. Goalie Matt Chriss '11 turned in another strong performance with 16 saves.
"Matt Chriss was outstanding in goal," Tiffany said. "He kept the score close as UMass went on spurts."
"We went in thinking we were definitely capable of winning," said co-captain Peter Fallon '11. "Obviously that didn't happen, but we did a lot of things right. I thought we got really good play from Matt Chriss, our goalie. A couple of defensive possessions were pretty good for us, but overall we need to get better as a team."
Tiffany was quick to praise Fallon,who shut down attacker Art Kell, UMass' biggest weapon.
"Team defense overall was decent, but there were some really good performances individually," Tiffany said. "Captain Peter Fallon was stalwart in his one-on-one matchup against Art Kell, one of the best attackmen in New England, if not the country. Peter shut him out and did an outstanding job, and Peter was great with ground balls and the clearing game."
The game was neck and neck in the first half. Goals from co-captain Andrew Feinberg '11 and Rob Schlesinger '12 in the first quarter canceled out the Minutemen's two scores. In the second, both teams again scored a pair of goals. After a Parker Brown '12 tally, Bruno tied the game going into the half with only two seconds left on the clock, thanks to a masterful finish from George Sherman '13.
But the third quarter belonged to the Minutemen. UMass fired 14 shots, three of which found the back of the net. Sherman scored again in the final seconds of the third — this time with 14 ticks left on the clock — but UMass added two quick goals to extend its lead to 9-5 in the fourth and put the game out of reach. Brown scored his sixth goal of the season with seven minutes left, but it served only as a consolation.
"We were tied 4-4 at half, so we knew we could play with them," Fallon said. "But in the third quarter, we got beat pretty badly, and that was the difference in the game."
The Bears have a quick turnaround before their next game, when they will travel to the University of Hartford (1-2) Wednesday afternoon.
"There's a balance here to not walk away from an early loss all negative and understand that we played a lot of good lacrosse," Tiffany said. "But there's also the balance that we can't come away from this game thinking, ‘Okay, UMass is really good. Don't worry about it. We'll be fine.' We certainly can't do that because there's so much more that we have to improve upon."
Fallon said the team is set for a strong three days of practice before the next game as it prepares to face an improved Hartford squad.
"I think any time you have a loss, it's a great thing to get back out there as soon as possible," Fallon said. "Hartford's a really good team and took us to OT last year, so we have to be ready for them."
Tiffany said the upcoming week is crucial in this young season, as a home March 12 matchup with St. Joseph's University (0-3) will follow on the heels of the Hartford game.
"We have to make progress," he said. "We have to make that next positive stride now. We've got to get back to work."