UMass men’s lacrosse has rediscovered winning culture

  • UMass players Sean Sconone, left, and Cameron Carpenter celebrate their 10-6 win against Hofstra in the CAA Tournament semifinal, Thursday, May 3, 2018 at Garber Field. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • Noah Rak, left, of UMass, moves the ball against Keegan Santos, of Hofstra, during the CAA Tournament semifinal, May 3 at Garber Field. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charlie O'Brien, right, of UMass, moves the ball against Hofstra during the CAA Tournament semifinal, Thursday, May 3, 2018 at Garber Field. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • Billy Philpott, right, of UMass, moves the ball against Ryan Tierney, of Hofstra, during the CAA Tournament semifinal, Thursday, May 3, 2018 at Garber Field. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 5/10/2018 9:25:11 PM

AMHERST — Even though Isaac Paparo’s focus is the UMass men’s lacrosse team’s noon NCAA Tournament game at Yale, Saturday, he can recognize that he’s in the middle of something special.

In the five years between the Minutemen’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament and the start of this season, they were 30-41. The program’s winning culture, which had defined it for most of the prior decade, had been missing.

But a day after beating Towson to earn the CAA title and an NCAA Tournament bid, Paparo was proud, not only of those accomplishments, but of the way the program had resurrected itself.

“This season has been the highlight of my time at UMass,” said the junior, who was named CAA Player of the Year. “I would love to keep this thing going. The culture we created here, that would be a great legacy. That’s the best thing. To be able to change something like that and grow and build this, has made me the most proud.”

The Minutemen’s up-tempo transition style is purring again and the team is embracing its scrappy underdog persona that defined it during its most successful years in the early 2000s.

“We’re kind of underdogs, who live the UMass way and do the right thing,” said Paparo, a 5-foot-7 under-recruited long stick midfielder. “We believe in the coaches and we believe in each other. If we keep working hard and trust one another good things will happen. Be humble and get your work done. Look at Coach Cannella, that’s a guy who lives it.”

Greg Cannella pointed the credit right back at the players and said this year’s success is partially rooted in last year’s attitude.

“Those guys have done a good job. The seniors last year set the table for the seniors this year,” Cannella said. “A few years ago, it wasn’t right. Now they’ve made it right. Those guys. The captains and our seniors should get all the credit. I can talk about it all I want, but if there’s not guys in the locker room talking about it and holding guys accountable, it never happens.”

Attackman Buddy Carr said it’s been rewarding.

“We had a tough couple years my first three seasons,” he said. “Being able to bring that culture back and having that influence on the freshmen and seeing us grow as a team has been nice to see.”

This doesn’t appear to be the case when a team reaches a zenith with a senior-infused roster and heading for a rebuild next year.

Carr, the team’s leading scorer, is a senior, as is faceoff specialist Noah Rak, and midfielders Jake Lisauskas, Shane Rinkus and Jake Marino. But the Minutemen will bring back a talented nucleus.

Paparo and goalie Sean Sconone are both juniors. No. 2 scorer Jeff Trainor (26 goals, 20 assists) is a sophomore and Chris Connolly (21 goals, 20 assists), the CAA rookie of the year, is just a freshman.

The Minutemen likely head into 2019 as the CAA favorite. Even when UMass opened the season 1-4, Cannella was hopeful.

“We felt like we had good leaders and they were trying hard, maybe a little too hard,” he said. “I’ve felt that way from day one, even in the fall. The guys were really good guys and cared about each other. Winning helps that and solidifies that.”

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




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