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Drexel edges UMass men’s lacrosse as tournament chances dim

The Minutemen’s 15-14 loss to Drexel was the latest in a season filled with frustrating defeats.

“We gave a winning effort today and when you don’t come up with a win, that’s what sucks the most,” senior attackman Kyle Smith said.

There were chances for a different result or at least overtime. UMass got six shots in the final 75 seconds of the game. Smith missed high once and wide once.

Goalie Cal Winkelman (11 saves) turned back Grant Whiteway (five goals) with 40 seconds left. Then Colin Fleming’s shot was deflected before it reached the goalie. Will Manny scooped the rebound and got it back to Fleming, but Winkelman stopped his second attempt with 18 seconds left.

Drexel got the rebound, but Jake Smith forced a turnover to keep the Dragons (9-3, 4-1 Colonial Athletic Association) from running out the clock. Kyle Smith, who had three goals and a career-high five assists, got a good look from about eight yards out with three seconds left, but Winkelman blocked the shot.

“It’s pretty frustrating. It’s as frustrating as the last game,” Minuteman coach Greg Cannella said. “No one likes to lose. I don’t like to lose. Our guys don’t like to lose. Fans don’t like to see us lose. Anytime we lose it’s really frustrating.

“ ... You work hard each week,” he added. “When you lose, it’s very disappointing. Think of the time you put in from September to now. It’s not just this week.”

Despite its struggles, UMass (5-7, 0-4 CAA) can still make the conference tournament, but a lot has to go right. The Minutemen have to win their last two games at Hofstra Saturday and at home against Delaware on April 26. Both those games are at 7 p.m. They also need Penn State to beat Hofstra and Towson to beat Saint Joseph’s, both on April 27.

“That’s our goal,” Jake Smith said. “We want to keep this group together as long as possible. No one’s ready for it to end.”

Trailing 12-11 entering the fourth quarter, Whiteway scored his fourth and fifth goals of the game to put UMass ahead 13-12. But in a game with runs by both teams, the Dragons scored three straight to lead 15-13.

Manny (two goals, four assists) scored with 3:41 left to set up the final sequence.

Most of the Minutemen’s troubles this year have come from an inability to score. But in a game where its offense broke out, the UMass defense struggled and the 15 goals against matched the most it has allowed all year.

“It’s tough losing,” Jake Smith said. “We know we have a lot of talent. We have to put it together for a complete game. That’s what we’re working on. Every week it seems like the offense has a great week and the defense doesn’t play as well or the defense has a great week and the offense doesn’t play as well.

“We haven’t put together a full game for 60 minutes,” he added. “If we do that, we’ll fix some of the problems we’ve been having.”

Cannella tried to spark the team lifting freshman goalie Zach Oliveri (five saves, seven goals allowed), who has started all 12 games, for junior Reed Goodhue (11 saves, eight goals allowed) at halftime.

“(Reed) was excellent. We know he’s always ready to play. That’s why we put him in there,” Cannella said. “It’s good to see him go in there and lead courageously and make some saves for us. He works as hard as anybody on the team. We needed a spark and he actually provided that for us.”

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

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