Unbeaten UMass Beats Drexel for CAA Title
AMHERST, Mass. – From the opening faceoff
at Garber Field, it was evident that Kyle Smith had come to play.
UMass’ junior attackman found a streaking Ryan Hollenbaugh 58
seconds into the CAA Championship and the long stick midfielder
made no mistakes as he opened up the scoring.
The undefeated Minutemen (15-0) proved just why they are the No. 1 team in the country as they used a five-goal run in the second quarter to pull away from third-seeded Drexel (8-8) and win 18-12. Smith had a hand in four of the five goals, punctuated by the last two which came just eight seconds apart.
“To come out and score early loosens the game up for me,” said Smith. “We got to touch the ball a lot on attack in transition and I got on the end of a lot of ‘one mores’ from my teammates.”
It was not all roses in the first half for the Minutemen however as Drexel hung with UMass for the first 25 minutes and actually had two separate one-goal leads in the first quarter. Kyle Bergman’s goal at the 10:55 mark of the second quarter knotted the game at five but it took just seven seconds for Art Kell to open the flood gates.
The matchup of the game was between CAA Player of the Year Will Manny from UMass and CAA Defensive Player of the Year Dana Wilber. With Manny being closed off, the depth of UMass was able to outshine the Dragons defense.
“Dana did a good job on him last time and I thought he did a good job tonight,” said Drexel coach Brian Voelker. “They’re both great players which is what makes it a good matchup. He’s a great player and he deserves to be conference player of the year.”
Smith led a group of 13 Minutemen to register a point, including Manny who managed to find himself open a few times and took advantage with three goals and an assist. Faceoff man Anthony Torresco scored his first two goals of the season and handed out two assists to supplement his dominance at the faceoff “X,” going 18-for-26 en route to CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
The total team performance by UMass was certainly one worthy of the No. 1 team in the country and it extended to the defensive end. In a game that saw 10 penalties called against UMass, Greg Cannella’s man-down defense was air-tight and held Drexel to just two goals.
“Our man down unit is pretty solid but we are tired of seeing those guys out there,” said Cannella. “As much as they have done a good job out there, it can come back and bite us, so we need to do a better job of not fouling.”
The Minutemen displayed the ability to alter their style of play to fit the situation. After showing off their quick-strike offense in the first half, UMass slowed it down in the second and played some stall ball by working it around and getting the best shot available.
With the NCAA Tournament on the horizon and UMass likely to receive a top seed, that ability to adapt will come in handy. Being able to seamlessly shift from a quick-strike offense to a ball control offense makes them dangerous whether they are leading or trailing.
Drexel was led by attackman Brendan Glynn who netted a hat trick for the second straight game. Robert Church and Kyle Bergman chipped in two goals apiece for the Dragons with Bergman and Chris Farquhar dished out the only two assists.
Hollenbaugh finished with two goals, joining Smith, Kell and Torresco as the Minutemen’s multiple-goal scorers. Smith and Kell finished with eight and five points respectively while Manny added four points as the attack unit continues to be among the best in the country.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be tomorrow night at 9pm on ESPNU.
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