CAA semifinals against Towson not a revenge game for UMass men’s lacrosse

  • Greg Cannella and the UMass men’s lacrosse team open the CAA conference tournament Thursday against Towson in Philadelphia (7 p.m. Lax Sports Network). CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass men’s lacrosse players Sam Eisenstadt, center left, and Matt Hill, center right, lead the Minutemen out of the tunnel to Garber Field for a regular season game against Fordham. The Minutemen face Towson in the CAA semifinals Thursday in Philadelphia (7 p.m. Lax Sports Network). CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2022 7:29:28 PM

Colonial Athletic Association play suits the UMass men’s lacrosse team’s palate. 

The Minutemen are the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and will face No. 2 Towson at 7 p.m. Thursday in Philadelphia, which is hosting both rounds this weekend.

“We’re hungry for some more CAA play. We got a couple confidence wins and are ready for a little more action,” UMass senior Matt HIll said. 

UMass (8-5) won its last two games, beating Drexel (the CAA No. 4 seed) on Friday at home to secure its berth in the four-team conference tournament, and also winning at Hofstra the week before.

“We’ve been in a lot of different types of games, so I think that pays dividends down the line,” UMass grad student Sam Eisenstadt said. “We’ve seen a lot through the season.”

The Minutemen started out 1-3, including a gut check ovetime loss at Yale (Inside Lacrosse’s No. 6 team in the country currently) then they ripped off five wins consecutively in March and early April to rise to the No. 20 team in the country. Towson ended that run with a 12-9 scoreline that was closer than the game actually was.

“They beat us in the regular season pretty handily even though it was only 12-9. We have our work cut out for us,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “We got bulled in the first game by their defense.”

The Tigers jumped out to a 4-1 lead and held UMass at arm’s length.

“We were on a five-game winning streak, too, so maybe we were feeling our britches. They came in, knocked us off,” Cannella said.

But the Minutemen that face the Tigers for a spot in the conference championship game Thursday won't be the same one that fell in Maryland earlier this season.

“We’re taking a lot of lessons from that game, schematically working on some things we thought we didn’t do too well,” Eisenstadt said. “Reviewing the film and having a chip on our shoulder going in because they took it to us pretty bad.”

UMass will bring the CAA’s stingiest defense to Philadelphia, allowing just 10.61 goals per game. The Minutemen are second in the league in ground balls per game (33) – which has a similar impact to rebounding in basketball because it gives a player’s team possession in a loose ball situation.

UMass goalie Matt Knote leads the league in save percentage (.536) and goals against average (10.54). He’s one of four Minutemen named first-team All-CAA.

Eisenstadt received the honor on defense, while Caleb Hammett was honored as a faceoff specialist and Kevin Tobin on attack.

Tobin, with his second consecutive first-team spot, leads the CAA averaging four points per game. He’s accumulated 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points. Hammett led the league with a 6.15 face off win percentage and 8.38 ground balls per game.

It was Eisenstadt’s third straight All-CAA honor after two second-team nods. He leads the team with 12 caused turnovers per game.

Hammett also was named to the CAA All-Rookie team with Aidan Kaminska and Shane O’Leary.

“We’ve seen a little bit of success but we can’t get too high on that. We can’t rely on what we’ve done in the past,” Hill said.

All six CAA teams finished either 3-2 or 2-3. That level of parity means the conference tournament will be a brawl where the seeds barely matter.

“Whoever gets the breaks, maybe a hot goalie or they shot the ball well over the span of the weekend, can win it. Traditionally the four-seed has advanced and in terms of it being an upset, it’s not. All the teams in it are evenly-matched,” Cannella said. “We just have to be prepared and be us and concern ourselves with how we prepare this week and how we play Thursday night. They jumped out on us (in the first matchup), so we’ve got to be ready for any punches that come our way.”

No. 1 Delaware will meet No. 4 Drexel in the other semifinal at 4 p.m. before UMass plays Thursday. The winners will meet for the title at 2 p.m. Saturday. The automatic bid that comes with winning that game is the only way any of them are getting into the NCAA Tournament.

“The AQ is our only access right now,” Cannella said. “It’s a one-bid conference this year.”

So beating Towson is the only way to keep the UMass season – and its seniors’ college careers – going. That means more than revenge.

“The CAA semis is enough of a reason to play your hardest. I don’t think it’s a revenge game in any sort, we just have to clean it up and take it game by game,” Eisenstadt said. “It’s a great opportunity. All the motivation should be there.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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