UMass wins CAA title, qualifies for NCAAs

  • UMass goalie Sean Sconone makes a save against Towson in the CAA Tournament championship Saturday at Garber Field in Amherst. umASS ATHLETICS/THOM KENDALL

For the Recorder
Sunday, May 06, 2018

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

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.

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 sound any alarms.

Previous 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 intermission 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 with Saturday’s 16-save effort, 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 by 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.”

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