UMass lacrosse off to a strong start with conference play about to start

Minutemen look to keep strong start going in conference

  • Sophomore attackman Buddy Carr has been a big part of why UMass’ men’s lacrosse team has exceeded expectations so far this season. THOM KENDALL UMASS ATHLETICS

Published: 3/25/2016 10:12:47 PM

AMHERST — The nonconference schedule looked like a daunting task for the UMass men’s lacrosse team entering the season.

The Minutemen appeared to be in rebuilding mode and they were facing a slate loaded with ranked opponents.

Inside Lacrosse magazine picked UMass to finish tied for last in the Colonial Athletic Association, while the CAA’s preseason poll had the Minutemen slotted fifth out of sixth.

It wasn’t surprising. Leading scorer Nick Mariano, who had 14 more points than the next Minuteman, transferred to Syracuse, and goalie Zach Oliveri transferred to Stony Brook.

UMass had a strong and loaded close defense, led by Kyle Karaska, but almost everywhere else the Minutemen needed a lot of things to break right to have a chance to be competitive.

Instead, playing against a schedule ranked the second toughest in the country by’s computer rankings, the Minutemen are 4-4 and ranked No. 18 in the nation. The four losses came against teams ranked above them and three of their wins came against top 20 teams — No. 11 Ohio State (16-9), No. 10 North Carolina (14-9) and No. 20 Penn State (11-9).

After going 17-24 over the last three years, UMass looks a lot more like the program that’s been consistently among the best in the region under coach Greg Cannella.

“We love coaching these guys. This group has been really good all year,” Cannella said. “From the fall to now, they’ve been willing to put the extra time in. It’s been good group to coach. We just want our guys to go out there and play their butts off. We wanted to get back to playing aggressive on offense and being aggressive on defense and being together as a team. I think there had been some disconnect in the past year or two.”

Sophomore attackman Buddy Carr said the players had expected to confound the low expectations from the beginning.”

“We knew we had a solid group from the get-go. Yes (Mariano and Oliveri) were big losses, but we knew we’d be able to figure it out,” Carr said. “I think we’ve really shown we were able to do that. ... We’ve preached that we’re the underdogs and we’ve thrived off of that.”

Among the keys to that success has been Carr’s emergence. The sophomore from New Hampshire had just six goals and four assists last year as a midfielder. He moved to attack to help counteract the loss of Mariano and has thrived with 14 goals and four assists.

“I knew the move from midfield to attack would help (statistically) but not as much as it has. I’m very happy to contribute,” Carr said. “It’s definitely boosted my confidence.”

He’s one of a handful of players to emerge this year. The goalie battle was so tight going into the season that Cannella originally split time between junior D.J. Smith and sophomore Dan Dolan. But after back-to-back losses to Brown and Albany, Cannella installed Dolan as the full-time keeper and he thrived in upsets of North Carolina and Penn State.

The Minutemen will have to prove themselves as a road team. They’ll begin conference play April 2 at Delaware and three of their five CAA games are on the road.

“You hope what we’ve done gets you ready for conference,” Cannella said. “But we haven’t played a conference game yet.”

Carr said the key was sticking to what’s made UMass successful so far.

“When we get the ball moving and people get in grooves, we’re a hard team to stop,” Carr said. “We know what we can do. If we execute what we’re supposed to and take care of the little things, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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