Bucknell Men's Lax Hosts No. 9/13 UMass Saturday at Noon
March 8, 2013
LEWISBURG, Pa. --The Bucknell men's lacrosse team is off to a 3-1 start, including an inspired 11-2 Patriot League win over Navy last week, and now the Bison have another tough test in No. 9/13 Massachusetts on Saturday at noon at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. The Minutemen make their first-ever trip to Lewisburg with a 3-2 record, although they are coming off back-to-back losses after a 3-0 start.
Bucknell's first three games of the season -- wins over Delaware and Bryant surrounding a loss at Mount St. Mary's -- were decided by a combined four goals, but the Bison made sure there would be no dramatics in last Saturday's home game against Navy. They trailed 2-1 early, but then held the Midshipmen scoreless for the final 51 minutes while finishing the game on a 10-0 run.
The final stat sheet showed a stunning 57-14 shot advantage for Bucknell, which turned in one of its best defensive efforts under eighth-year head coach Frank Fedorjaka. The Bison forced 22 turnovers and allowed only seven shots to get in on goalie Kyle Feeney, five of which he stopped.
Bucknell will need a similar defensive effort to slow down Massachusetts' strong offense. The Minutemen already have five different players with at least seven goals, and that does not count 2012 Tewaaraton Award finalist Will Manny, who has not played since suffering a hand injury in a season-opening win over Army.
Matt Whippen leads UMass with 10 goals and 13 points. Connor Mooney (9-3-12), Andrew Sokol (8-4-12), Kyle Smith (7-5-12), Grant Whiteway (8-2-10) and Bobby Tyler (0-8-8) pace the Minutemen offense for a team that averages 10.6 goals per game.
Joe Calvello has excelled at the faceoff X, winning 67 of 115 (.582) on the season to go with a team-high 27 ground balls. Freshman goalie Zach Oliveri has a .566 save percentage and a 9.30 goals-against average.
After opening the season with a 16-9 rout of Army, the Minutemen came from three goals down at the start of the fourth quarter to knock off No. 4 North Carolina 12-11 on Feb. 16. A week later they downed Harvard 8-6, but in the month of March UMass has fallen 9-8 in overtime to Brown and, most recently, 15-9 at Albany.
UMass had an incredible 2012 season, starting 15-0 including a Colonial Athletic Association championship. But the Minutemen were upset by Colgate out of the Patriot League in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
One of those 15 wins was an 11-9 decision over Bucknell in a battle of two top-12-ranked teams at Garber Field. Manny led the Minutemen with three goals and four assists in that one, while Billy Eisenreich led the Bison with three goals and three assists in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Bucknell has outscored its opponents 41-30 through four games. Sophomore David Dickson has been the quarterback of the offense so far. He has a goal and 13 assists, and he leads the Patriot League in assists per game. Todd Heritage paces the Bison with 10 goals, while Chase Bailey has eight and freshmen Sean Doyle and Thomas Flibotte seven each.
The starting close defense trio of Mike Huffner, Jackson Place and Ben Kellar has been outstanding in the last two games, as Bucknell conceded only 10 goals against Bryant and Navy after leaking 12 in the loss to Mount St. Mary's. Freshman pole Alex Spring, this week's Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week, logged six ground balls and five caused turnovers against Navy, and he leads the team with 20 GBs on the season.
After yielding just the two goals last week, Feeney now leads the Patriot League in goals-against average at 7.28.
Following the UMass game, Bucknell will wrap up a four-game homestand on Tuesday afternoon against Drexel. The Bison and Dragons will meet at 4 p.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. The contest will air live on Bison Vision.
Drexel is off to a strong 3-1 start, with the lone loss coming on opening day at No. 7 Virginia, 13-12 in overtime. The high-scoring Dragons bounced back with a crazy 20-19 win over Albany, followed by victories over Villanova (12-10) and Robert Morris (13-12).