UMass Makes Road Trip To No. 6 UNC For Saturday Showdown

Minutemen jet to North Carolina for Feb. 14 contest at Noon

Scouting North Carolina Men’s Lacrosse
North Carolina men’s lacrosse is ranked No. 6 in the nation by the USILA and No. 5 according to the Inside Lacrosse media poll ahead of its Saturday, Feb. 14 meeting with UMass. UNC sports a 2-0 record currently, with a 19-4 win over Furman and 15-9 victory against High Point.

The Tar Heels sport two of the longest point-scoring streaks in the nation currently in 2015 leading scorer Jimmy Bitter (11 points; seven goals, four assists) and Joey Sankey (eight points; five goals, three assists). Bitter has at least one point in each of the previous 43 games, a total of 130 via 87 goals and 43 assists. Sankey owns more points – 134 on 78 goals and 56 assists – but his streak is shorter than Bitter’s (38 games). Bitter’s streak is the second-longest to Shayne Adams’ 47 for Detroit while Sankey’s is tied for the third-longest with Jesse King at Ohio State.

Brian Balkam and Duncan Saunders split time in the cage, with 60 minutes apiece. Saunders owns a lower goals-against average (6.00) but has a lower save percentage (.455). Balkam lets in 7.00 goals-against with 13 stops for a .650 save percentage.

Joe Breschi is two games into his seventh season coaching North Carolina men’s lacrosse. A 1990 UNC graduate who was a two-time USILA All-America selection, Breschi is back at his alma mater after a 11-year tenure as the head coach of Ohio State. Breschi went 92-63 with the Buckeyes (.594 win percentage) and is 71-30 at North Carolina (.703) for a .634 career win percentage (161-93 overall record).

Last Meeting: #12 UMass 12, #4 North Carolina 11; Feb. 16, 2013
Kyle Smith and Connor Mooney paced the offense with four points each on three goals and one assist a piece and goalie Zach Oliveri stopped 18 shots in net, including four during the final quarter when the Minutemen outscored the Tar Heels, 4-0 to secure the come-from-behind win over North Carolina, 12-11.

The final goal of the game went on to become the decisive tally at KSU Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., with Mooney recording his third mark of the day on the play. Mooney rolled around the left side of the goal from the back of the cage and stopped at the crease, jumping into the air while placing a shot into the lower-right corner of the goal for the 12-11 lead with 3:18 to play in the contest.

After North Carolina had a pair of tying attempts go wide of the net in the span of 13 seconds, beginning with 2:35 left to play, the Minutemen kept possession away from its defensive zone until the final seconds of the contest. Following a UMass turnover near midfield, North Carolina’s Greg McBride scooped up the loose ball and sprinted toward the UMass goal. McBride sent a last-second game-tying attempt on-frame, with Oliveri adjusting to the shot to record his final save of the day and secure the win.

On Top Of The Tweet Game
Instant information about the men’s lacrosse program, including an inside look at key points and statistics in each game as well as updates from practice and other team events can be found through the Twitter handle @UMassMLacrosse. Follow the Minutemen there and catch information about each UMass Athletic Department program through @UMassAthletics.

All Home Contests Available On UMass All-Access
UMass men’s lacrosse will have each of its seven home games broadcast online through UMass All-Access, a CBS Interactive product. The link for each broadcast was accessible in each game preview to direct fans or other interest parties to the subscription page, where the viewer is asked to purchase the plan he or she believes to be appropriate.

Two Decades Under The Influence
The 2014 season marked Greg Cannella’s 20th as the head coach of UMass. The University of Massachusetts graduate is 178-111 overall in his 21st season as the program leader and he stands as one of the longest tenured coaches in Division I men’s lacrosse. In terms of total Division I experience, Cannella is eighth while his 20 years in Amherst place him fifth for longest head coaching tenure at a current school among the 67 head coaches in D-I during the 2014 season.

Cannella has guided the Minutemen to many of the most successful campaigns in program history since being named the head coach on Nov. 9, 1994. The Lynbrook, N.Y., native took the 2006 squad to the NCAA Championship Game and led UMass to the most single-season victories in program history (15) as well as the No. 1 national ranking during the 2012 season, which culminated in the most recent of the team’s eight trips to the NCAA Tournament under Cannella.

The Small Set Of Senior
The 2015 senior class of short-stick defensive midfielder Ryan Izzo, midfielder Chas Robino, short-stick defensive midfielder Brendan Schroeder, midfielder Andrew Sokol, close defenseman Peter Von Rosenvinge and attackman Grant Whiteway is one of the smallest in the nation. Of all men’s lacrosse programs in at least their fourth season of NCAA Division I competition, the five-member senior class at UMass ranks tied as the ninth-smallest.

Mariano Was On The Mark
Nick Mariano put 47 shots on-target during the 2014 season and netted goals on 29, which gave him a conversion rate of 61.7 percent when he directed his attempt at the cage. Overall, Mariano held the team lead in shots with 76, which gave him a goal on 38.2 percent of his total attempts.

Mariano started 2015 with three goals in five on-target attempts against No. 20 Army, a conversion rate of 60.0 percent.

Hats Off To This Trio
UMass men’s lacrosse sports a trio of competitors with at least one career hat trick with one game completed in 2015. Senior Grant Whiteway and sophomore Nick Mariano are tied for the team leads the bunch with six. Whiteway’s most recent was a seven-goal outburst against Providence on March 11, 2014 while Mariano had one on three goals vs. No. 20 Army on Feb. 7, 2015. Andrew Sokol, a classmate of Whiteway, also had a three-goal game against Army in the 2013 season-opener.

Izzo Earns First Career USILA All-America Award In 2014
The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) awarded short-stick defensive midfielder Ryan Izzo a spot on the organization’s all-America listing on Thursday, May 22. Izzo was tabbed an honorable mention recipient after he provided 25 groundballs and six caused turnovers during the 2014 season.

The honor marks the 135th all-America award issued to a Minuteman by the USILA and the 44th during head coach Greg Cannella’s 20 seasons leading the program.