NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament: UMass vs. Yale pits two friends against each other

  • UMass’ Dom St. Laurent, right, looks to move the ball past Drexel’s Luke Hurley April 28, 2017 during a men’s lacrosse game at Garber Field in Amherst. GAZETTE PHOTO / SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass’ Devin Spencer, takes a stick across the neck from Yale’s Jason Alessi as he powers the ball twoard the goal in a February game between the Minutemen and Bulldogs.

Published: 5/11/2018 7:27:38 PM

AMHERST — The normal texts are missing. The good luck phone calls that might have come with different matchups won’t exist either.

In almost every other situation, UMass coach Greg Cannella and Yale coach Andy Shay root for each other. The two have professional admiration and friendship that incubated when Shay was an assistant on Cannella’s staff in Amherst from 2000-2003.

But on Saturday at noon, the two friends will meet in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament in New Haven, Connecticut.

“He’s an outstanding coach. When he was here he was always an out-of-the-box thinker and a forward thinker. He did a lot of things defensively really, really well,” Cannella said. “He’s really developed a great program at Yale. He knows what he’s doing and what type of person he wants in his program. We have a ton or respect for each other. There’ll be radio silence this week, that’s for sure.”

Yale was ranked No. 1 going into last weekend’s Ivy League final, but were dominated by Cornell, 14-8. The Bulldogs edged UMass 13-10 on Feb. 27.

Yale (13-3) is led by senior attackman Ben Reeves. In addition to studying molecular cellular developmental biology, he’s found time to amass 51 goals and 90 points (both second in the nation).

He’s a Tewaaraton Award (national player of the year) finalist for the second straight year and will almost certainly be a first-team All-American for the third straight season.

The fourth overall pick (Dallas) in last month’s Major League Lacrosse draft has never played a college game without scoring a point.

“He’s big, fast, has great vision. He scores the ball really well. He’s a tremendous athlete and obviously a tremendous lacrosse player. He’s going to get his,” Cannella said. “It’s important to play solid defense and get great goaltending and hopefully win face-offs.”

Junior Isaac Paparo said the Minutemen will be aware of his presence at all times.

“He’s a good player, no doubt, a really good player, a Tewaaraton finalist last year,” Paparo said. “He’ll be at the top of the scout, but we’ll be prepared for everyone.”

Yale freshman goalie Jack Starr has allowed 8.00 goals per game and has a 48.2 save percentage. He had a season-high 15 stops against the Minutemen in the first meeting.

Conor Mackie’s 63.9 faceoff winning percentage has him seventh in Division I, two spots ahead of UMass’ Noah Rak (61.1).

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

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