(Photo Courtesy of UMass Athletics)
In 2021, the CAA could very well end up being the most highly competitive, unpredictable, and exciting conference amongst the mid-majors. And the NCAA’s ruling to let seniors take an extra year has been a major factor in that regard.
Delaware returns multiple seniors and looks to be serious, Drexel and Hofstra may have the most stacked or experienced rosters in quite sometime. Towson has bounced back from a horrific season strong before and Fairfield could even make some noise. All in all, things will certainly be tight, especially at the top. And that is where many expect UMass to be sitting.
They have enjoyed a lot of success in Amherst over the years, and the past few seasons have just been added onto the immense, rich history of this program with them being a top tier team in the CAA after some mediocre years, winning the conference and making the NCAA Tournament in 2018, and looking to have the talent to do it again before the 2020 season was cut short.
UMass will return six seniors from last spring, including midfielders Billy Philpott, Jeff Trainor, Charlie O’Brien, attackman Devin Spencer, defenseman Jackson Suboch, and goalie Cameron Carpenter. They have also picked up a big grad transfer from Bucknell in LSM Hunter Newman.
Trainor (14G/6A) and Philpott (14G/2A) will full-time starters and impact players at midfield, where they often ran both ways. O’Brein (2G/4A) and Spencer (5G) were more or less role players last season, but each have made significant impacts throughout their careers at UMass.
While getting those four back for an extra year will greatly help the UMass offense, they also return a number of underclassmen from a season ago that made some serious headway and look to do so again in 2021. Attackmen Chris Connolly (9G/14A), who led the team in points last season, and Gabriel Procyk (15G/4A) look to be two of the top dogs on the offense once again. Kevin Tobin (10G/11A) and Mike Tobin (6G/5A) will both be back and look to make a sizable impact at the midfield spot again.
With as many impact players returning, both fifth-years and not, the Minutemen will feature one of the most experienced offenses in the CAA and the nation. That will certainly play into UMass’ favor during this upcoming spring and give them an upper hand on many occasions.
But where the Minutemen have made their mark, both historically and in recent years, has been on the defensive end. Last season, they ranked 27th in scoring defense, allowing 10.71 goals per game, and 15th in penalty kill (man-down).
Returning Suboch (19GB) and Newman, who was one of the top LSM’s and most disruptive poles in the Patriot League and nation last season, is a huge plus for this Minutemen defense and only adds to the hype that surrounds this unit. Newman could serve as that motor on the back end and in between the boxes that they had with Issac Paparo for years and seemed to be missing at times last season and Suboch looks to bring leadership and experience to that back line.
In addition to those two, the Minutemen will also have Ryan Fitzpatrick (14GB/5CT), who was a breakout star as a feshman, and Adam Towey (11GB/7CT) back on defense. Jake Dulac (15GB/7CT), who made four starts as a freshman, will also be back and should be a pretty impactful role player again for UMass.
And while returning a plethora of poles is a huge boost for this defense that was fairly young last season, their biggest piece coming back is Matt Knote in cage. Just a freshman last season, he came onto the scene strong and asserted himself as one of the top goalies in the conference and the nation. He ended the season with 81 saves and a 53% save percentage. Knote showed what he was capable of last season and with him in between the pipes in 2021, the ability of this defense seems limitless.
At the faceoff dot, Zack Hochman had a stellar freshman season in 2020 and should continue that success in 2021. He went 99-for-169 (59%) at the dot last season.