Fall Snapshot: UMass Minutemen

(Photo Courtesy of UMass Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Greg Cannella (29th Season, 1995-Present)

UMass 2022 Record: 8-6 (3-2 CAA)

Key Departures: Kevin Tobin (M), Logan Lijeberg (A), Sam Eisenstadt (D), Matt Weigand (D/LSM)

Key Returners: Gabriel Procyk (A), Mike Tobin (M), Caleb Hammett (FO), Jake Dulac (D), Matt Knote (G)

Transfer Additions: Connor Foley (A, UMass Lowell), Will Abbott (M, Quinnipiac), Ryan Sharkey (D, Canisius), Chris Campbell (D, LIU)

After marking its worst season since 2016 (4-6, 4-4 CAA) and just sixth losings season of the Cannella era in 2021, the UMass Minutemen looked much closer to their usual selves in 2022. UMass churned out an 8-6 (3-2 CAA) record that featured big wins over Vermont, Brown, and Delaware as well as close losses to Yale (13-12 OT) and Army West Point (14-13).

Following a two consecutive wins over Hofstra and Drexel to cap off its regular season, UMass advanced to face Towson in the CAA semifinals. They fell 18-10 in that contests to end their season and time in the CAA as the Minutemen will be playing in the Atlantic 10 this spring, which is the Minutemen’s full conference.

Heading into the 2023 season following a campaign in which they bounced back to an extent a year ago, UMass will be looking to make a mark right away in what looks to be a tough A-10 league. And the Minutemen likely have the horses to do so with most of its production back, and especially so at key positions.

Burning Questions

How Productive Will The Offense Be?

UMass featured an offense last season that, despite seeing multiple lineup shifts throughout the year due to injuries, averaged 11.8 goals per game as the 35th-best scoring offense in DI. The Minutemen also had a team shooting percentage of 28.8%, a shot on goal percentage of 63.6%.

Of that offense, UMass both loses and returns some big pieces. Kevin Tobin (27G/21A) and Logan Lijeberg (23G/21A) are both gone after being the team’s top-two scorers from a year ago. James Caddigan (7G/6A) is also gone. However, despite the loss of 105 points with those three, the Minutemen return top-five scorers in Gabriel Procyk (26G/7A), Mike Tobin (13G/15A), and Grant Breyo (17G/4A). Procyk is a four-year starter returning for a fifth-season while Tobin is expected to have a big senior season Breyo was a primary reserve midfielder last season as a sophomore.

In addiiton to those key returners, UMass brings in a pair of transfers in Connor Foley from UMass Lowell and Will Abbott from Quinnipiac. The addition of the pair of proven playmakers could very well help replace and replenish some of the production this unit lost, and possibly even improve it from last season. How much, though, is yet to be seen.

What Will The Transfer Impact Be?

Speaking of transfers, the Minutemen bring in much more than just the pair of offensive playmakers that is Foley and Abbott. UMass will also see former Canisius defenseman Ryan Sharkey and former LIU defenseman Chris Campbell wearing the maroon and black this spring.

Last spring, UMass benefited greatly from the transfers they brought in as Logan Lijeberg, who was a grad transfer from Sacred Heart, served as a top-two point-getter. James Caddigan, a top-10 scorer, was also a grad transfer having come in from Colgate. How this next crop of transfers ultimately impacts this UMass squad will be very interesting to see.

Foley has 29 games and 27 starts to his name from his time at UMass Lowell and is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he put up a career high 39 points (29G/10A). Abbott had 13 goals and 13 assist this past spring for 26 points with Quinnipiac, where he was a four-year starter. Both can give this offense a huge amount of production. On the other end, Sharkey was a full-time starter each of the past two seasons for Canisius and was an All-MAAC selection last spring with 28 ground balls and seven caused turnovers. Campbell transferred to LIU from Hartford and was an immediate impact player, causing 19 turnovers while grabbing 13 ground balls as a full-time starter.

What to Expect From UMass in The A-10?

With 20 NCAA Tournament appearances to its name, including 11 quarterfinals showings and three final four appearances, UMass has historically been one of the best mid-major programs in college lacrosse history. The Minutemen are consistently expected to compete for conference titles and NCAA Tournament showings. Expectations shouldn’t change as they move into the A-10, along with Richmond, Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, High Point, and Hobart.

In year one, the A-10 looks very much like the potential fourth or fifth best conference in college lacrosse. Each and every week will see uber competitive contests among teams who have played at the highest of levels in their previous leagues. The biggest question surrounding this UMass team is very similar to its other new conference foes: Can they maintain the same level of success as they have for years.

Potential Breakout Player

Shane O’Leary, Midfield, Redshirt Sophomore

O’Leary played in all 14 games and earned one start last season. He put up 17 points off 14 goals and three assists and earned himself CAA All-Freshman honors. In 2023, he could take an even bigger step and become a much larger part of the offense.

Freshman Class

UMass brings in a 10-man class with its 2022 recruiting efforts. It brings in two players in faceoff man TJ Casey (Medfield, Mass.) and defenseman Russell Hutchinson (Holderness, N.H.) who are rated as three-star recruits by Inside Lacrosse.

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