Staying healthy key for UMass
Last season was a disappointing one for Massachusetts, which went 8-6 and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years. A contributing factor was injuries, and Minutemen coach Greg Cannella said avoiding the injury bug is important again this year.
“A lot of things have to go your way,” he said Monday. “This is a team that needs to have better leadership than the previous team from last year and also stay healthy. We’re not as deep as we’d like to be. So health is definitely critical to us.”
The most significant loss involved then-sophomore attackman Art Kell, who compiled 21 goals and 12 assists in eight starters before breaking his foot and missing the remainder of the season. But losing Kell had a ripple effect elsewhere.
“He was our leading scorer at the time, and other guys had to step up,” Cannella recalled. “A guy like [sophomore attackman] Will Manny did, [graduated midfielder] Bobby Hayes did, and [junior midfielder] Anthony Biscardi did, but it moved some things around for us. Moving Anthony Biscardi down to attack really hurt our midfield and our ability to dodge out of the midfield. That was probably the biggest difference.”
Kell’s return means Biscardi can return to the midfield.
*Graduating Hayes (20 goals and 14 assists) and midfielder Christian Hain (9, 7) sapped the Minutemen of depth, but the team will sorely miss the presence of defenseman Diogo Godoi. The third-team All American collected 24 groundballs and 22 caused turnovers and harrassed opponents’ top playmakers. “That’s a tough guy to replace, but between [junior Tom] Celetani and [junior Greg] Anderson who’s a Maryland guy and Jake Smith who’s a sophomore, Travis Tripucka who’s a senior, and three good poles in [senior] Casey Rahn, [sophomore] Brett Tobin, [sophomore] Ryan Hollenbaugh, they’ve all done well,” Cannella said. “[Sophomore] Bobby Tyler, [senior] Stephen Zorkers, [senior] Mael Walkowiak, those guys will take the short-stick roles along with [junior] Greg Rushing who will split duties between facing off and defensive midfield. Last year, going into the season, they had more critical mass on that side, and I think we still do. So hopefully, that group can improve. I thought we underachieved last year.”
*Matthew Palasek transferred to UMass from Johns Hopkins in the offseason, but the sophomore attackman/midfielder has been sidelined by a back injury. Cannella said it’s difficult to assess Palasek’s transition because of his limited time in the offense. “We can’t put him into the system if he doesn’t practice,” Cannella said. “So hopefully, the weather gets a little bit better here and his back starts to feel better. He has potential. He’s a catch-and-shoot guy, a finisher. There’s some potential there and hopefully, he can find a role for us on this team and be a contributor.”