UMass men’s lacrosse wins CAA championship, will face Yale in NCAA Tournament

  • The UMass men’s lacrosse team celebrates with its CAA Tournament championship trophy, Saturday at Garber Field. THOMAS KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • The UMass men’s lacrosse team celebrates with its CAA Tournament championship, Saturday at Garber Field. THOMAS KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass goalie Sean Sconone makes a save against Towson, in the CAA Tournament championship, Saturday at Garber Field. THOMAS KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • The UMass men’s lacrosse team celebrates with its CAA Tournament championship, Saturday at Garber Field. Coach Greg Cannell, center, holds a plaque that was given to him for his 200th career win that came on March 31. THOMAS KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • —COURTESY NCAA

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 5/5/2018 9:06:31 PM

AMHERST — In early March, the UMass men’s lacrosse team seemed headed for irrelevance. The Minutemen were 1-4 with two lopsided losses on their resume and very little to signal that better times lay ahead.

But two months and 11 consecutive wins later, UMass walked off Garber Field with a CAA championship trophy and the program’s first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2012.

The Minutemen held off three-time defending champion and 2017 Final Four participant Towson, 12-8, Saturday.

The win earned UMass the CAA’s automatic bid and a trip to New Haven, Connecticut, to face No. 3 Yale, Saturday at noon.  The Bulldogs beat the Minutemen, 13-11, Feb. 27 in Amherst. Yale led that game 13-4 before the Minutemen scored the final six goals of the game. The matchup wasn’t a surprise. 

“We were pretty sure we were going to go there or Albany. We knew it would be a really good team,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “You know you’re going to have to play somebody really good. We’re thrilled to practicing tomorrow. There’s only 17 teams that are going to be practicing tomorrow. We’re thrilled to be one of those teams. We’re not going to make a huge deal about playing Yale. We’re just going to focus on ourselves and getting better every day. Then we’ll go down there and play our butts off.”

Throughout the winning streak, UMass has made a habit of turning small early deficits into halftime advantages. So Towson’s two goals to open the game didn’t set off any alarms.

Those comebacks often featured long scoring runs. Saturday’s was five straight, including Chris Connelly’s second that gave the Minutemen a 5-2 lead, 19 seconds into the second quarter. Connelly tied the CAA’s freshman record for points in a tournament with six on three goals and three assists.

“He really gave us a big charge. The way he finished was fantastic,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said.

Towson answered with two goals before int  ermission and another 1:05 into the third quarter to make it 5-5.

Following a Towson penalty, Jeff Trainor showed off impressive brakes driving to the net from the left side as he was able to prevent his inertia from carrying him into the crease. He tucked the ball between goalie Shane Brennan’s legs to give UMass the lead and momentum back with 10:56 left.

“It was pretty tense. That was a good response for sure,” Cannella said.

The goal started a stretch of three consecutive tallies for the Minutemen as Towson didn’t get within a goal again.

UMass goalie Sean Sconone’s recent success continued as Saturday’s 16-save effort was one of his best showings this season. It helped earn him the CAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honor.

 “Sean was good all day,” Cannella said. “He had an awesome day. That’s why he was the MVP.”

Sconone’s resilience after losing his starting job midseason impressed his teammates.

“I’m so proud of him,” junior Isaac Paparo said. “For him to bounce back from where he was. To see him have success if fantastic.”

Sconone was just glad to still be playing.

“We’ve been working for this since last September,” Sconone said. “This is a great feeling.”

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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