Plenty of Room For Improvement at UMass Lowell

(Photo Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)

UMass Lowell first started playing lacrosse in 2015 and by the time 2018 rolled around had established a solid foundation, and thus was a beneficiary of that fourth-season bump that many new programs often have. The River Hawks went 8-8 overall (3-3 America East) and made the postseason for the first time. They gave eventual America East champion NCAA Semifinalist UAlbany a run for their money in the conference semifinals, losing 15-10 in a game that was saw four ties in the second half.

That impressive 2018 season came after the River Hawks won just a combined 9 games the four years prior, going 1-13 during their inaugural season in 2015 and 4-12 in both 2016 and 2017.

Following that fourth season of play at UMass Lowell, things haven’t been too great for Ed Stephenson’s squad. The River Hawks went 5-9 (2-4 America East) in 2019 and missed the postseason, had a 3-4 record during the shortened 2020 season, and against an America East-Heavy schedule in 2021, went 1-8 (1-7 America East). Their lone win came against Hartford, 12-10.

In addition to their struggles in the win column last spring, the River Hawks had the 60th (5th worst) scoring offense in the nation, averaging 8.11 goals per game, and scoring defense in the nation as they allowed 14.78 goals per game. They also ranked 58th in DI in clearing percentage (.799%), 59th in man-down defense, coming up successful .514% of the time, 53rd in man-up offense, cashing in on just .235% of such opportunities, and 57th in team faceoff win percentage (.382%).

Coming into the 2022 season, the River Hawks have their work cut out for them with plenty of room for growth at nearly every area and facet of the game. And if they want any shot at challenging for that fourth spot in the America East tournament again, improvement must be had as it has been in the past.

Junior attackman Conor Foley will likely be the face of this River Hawk offense once again in 2022 as he returns after two strong seasons to begin his college career. Foley led the team in points with 23 during the shortened 2020 season and was the team’s second-leading scorer in 2021 with 14 points off 11 goals and three assists. Senior midfielder Sean Parker (9G/4A), sophomore attackman Jake Davis (8G/5A), and fifth-year midfielder Domenic Giachello (5G/8A) also return as top five point-getters from a year ago.

Additionally, midfielder Kyle LaForge will be back for a fifth season. He was the River Hawks’ second-leading scorer during that shortened 2020 season with 16 points off 10 goals and six assists. After a down year in 2021 where he started eight of nine contest but ended the season with just seven goals, the graduate student could very well take a step back in the right direction and help this offense push forward. The same can be said for senior midfielder Dakota Clark, who put up 10 goals and three assists in 2020 as a full-time starter before having just four goals in 2021. He played in nine games with two starts this past spring.

On the defensive end, senior Eric Flynn is the top returning pole while sophomores Tanner Soudan and Ethan Zupko are the only two other returning poles that saw starts last season. Flynn has been the face of this defense for multiple years now and is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he grabbed 12 ground balls and caused 11 turnovers. Soudan played and started in six games, and grabbed 14 ground balls and caused three turnovers. Zupko played in five games with seven starts and recorded five ground balls and one caused tunover.

Senior Zach D’Amico (13GB/1CT) and Christian Moss (8GB/2CT) look to be solid options at the defensive midfielder position once again.

In cage, Anthony Mancino is the only returner who saw action last season. Mancino served as the secondary option in cage a year ago to Max Christides, who has since transferred to Marquette, and 38 saves with a .487% save percentage.

All in all, this UMass Lowell defense looks to be fairly green again in 2022. With that, especially after a season the likes of which this team just had, can come a good amount of growth and improvement. That is especially true considering what has been shown from that close defense unit in the past and the potential ceiling that could be there with that group, in particular.

Another area where this team will want to see growth this spring is at the faceoff dot. Senior Liam McDonough is the River Hawks’ top returner at the position after going 43-for-110 (.391%) in seven appearances last season. McDonough has been the team’s top option since his freshman season, where he went .605% at the dot. If he can return to form or not could be a major factor in how exactly this season plays out for this squad.

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