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Will Manny, UMass men’s lacrosse kick off season at home against Army

Will Manny, left, Kyle Smith and the University of Massachusetts men's lacrosse team open the season against Army at noon Sunday at Garber Field.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Will Manny, left, Kyle Smith and the University of Massachusetts men's lacrosse team open the season against Army at noon Sunday at Garber Field. Purchase photo reprints »

For senior All-American Will Manny, the fact that the University of Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team lost its NCAA tournament game at home last year was almost as offensive as losing at all.

The Minutemen went undefeated through the regular season and Colonial Athletic Association tournament, and earned a home game in the NCAA tournament, but were upset by Colgate 13-11 in the first round.

“Winning every game then losing that last one at home, when one of our goals is to defend Garber Field every year, I was thinking about that the whole summer,” Manny said. “We preached that throughout the whole fall. We got to where we wanted to be in the regular season and then we didn’t do it. That’s all the fire I need.”

The Minutemen will take that fire into Sunday’s noon season opener against Army at Garber Field.

“Monday, before we started practice, we said, ‘Remember this is our first game of the 2013 season wearing a white UMass jersey,’” Manny said. “Last time we wore a white UMass jersey on this field, we lost. I saw a lot of serious faces in practice. Hopefully we carry that mentality and bring it against Army.”

The Minutemen enter the season with high expectations again. They were picked to win the CAA in the league’s preseason poll and landed at No. 12 (USILA coaches poll) and No. 13 (Nike-Inside Lacrosse media poll) in the national rankings. Manny, who had 44 goals and 33 assists last year, is a preseason All-American and among the favorites for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s national player of the year.

After two scrimmages against Siena and St. John’s, Minuteman coach Greg Cannella still had questions about his squad.

“We haven’t been great early in our scrimmages. I’m not sure why. I think this group feels a little bit of pressure on them. Those guys that left last year were really good leaders, on the field and off the field,” Cannella said. “These guys are kind of feeling the heat from that in terms of trying to be a really good leader and also being a really good player. It’s hard for certain people to do that.

“I’m not sure if some of these guys, most of whom have played for four years, are just waiting for the games to come,” Cannella continued. “It’s going to be interesting to see if that’s a trend and that’s what this team does, which is not a good thing in my opinion. You gotta start fast and finish fast in our game.”

At attack, Manny and fellow returning starter Kyle Smith (33 goals, 19 assists) will be joined by sophomore Grant Whiteway, who joins the starting lineup for the first time.

“Between Will and Kyle Smith, he has to blend in an pick up the crumbs. You gotta fit in with those guys and be really strong in transition when they get you the ball,” Cannella said. “You have to be a good rider, a good ground-ball guy. He’ll probably face the third defenseman and you’ve got to win that matchup. Those are things we think Grant can do for sure.”

UMass lost some key midfield pieces from last year in Anthony Biscardi, Mike Fetterly and Steve D’Amario, who combined for 41 goals and 31 assists. But Colin Fleming (26 goals, eight assists) should be a key player in the offensive midfield, while Bobby Tyler, who’ll also play offense, and Ryan Izzo will be important midfield pieces on defense.

The Minutemen will have a new face in goal as redshirt freshman Zach Oliveri takes over for graduated Tim McCormack. Oliveri helped the U.S. Under-19 National Team win the World Championship over the summer. Cannella said junior Reed Goodhue has pushed Oliveri so far.

“We’re hoping we can see some consistency from him that we haven’t seen quite yet to the level he wants it at and obviously we want it at,” Cannella said. “Reed is very prepared, very ready and more than capable. Both of those guys have worked hard, but I think initially it’s going to be Zach.”

Senior Jake Smith was selected as a preseason second-team All-American by Inside Lacrosse. He and fellow seniors Ryan Hollenbaugh and Brett Tobin will be counted on to lead the defense in front of the rookie goalie.

Jake Smith was looking forward to seeing it all come together.

“It’s been a good transition. Everyone has stepped into their roles and doing well with it,” he said. “It’s a new year. We’re not focusing on redeeming ourselves from last year. We thought we had a good season. Everyone is just excited for the first game to get out there and play, especially at home.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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