Feeling pain, UMass tries to stay patient

Cannella: Heaping blame on injuries leads nowhere


College Lacrosse

March 25, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Massachusetts men's lacrosse coach Greg Cannella has resisted the temptation, even as his team sits below .500 and is considered to be in serious danger of missing the NCAA tournament.

It would be easy -- and understandable -- for Cannella to glance down his sideline during games, see several of his key players from back-to-back NCAA quarterfinalists in street clothes with injuries, and wonder what could have been.

"You can't do that," said Cannella, whose team improved to 3-4 and ended a three-game losing streak Tuesday with a 12-4 victory over winless Sacred Heart. "You have guys you are counting on, and if you use [injuries as an excuse], the young guys are going to feel like that they're just in there till the other guys come back. And that's not a good approach."

Injuries have shelved five of the team's starters for much of the season and -- even if Cannella won't admit it -- at least contributed to surprising losses to Harvard, Albany and Brown.

UMass, which is unranked entering a home game against Hofstra on Sunday after starting the season in everyone's top 10, hasn't fielded the same starting lineup yet.

The big loss was senior attackman Jeff Zywicki, who scored 61 goals last year, but re-injured his back in the first quarter of the Minutemen's first game. He hasn't played since.

"If he's healthy enough, we'd like him to be back this season," said Cannella, whose team was third in the country last year with 12.19 goals a game, but is scoring just nine a game this year. "Even at 60, 70 or 80 percent, I'd rather have him than most just because of his ability to finish."

Sophomore Sean Morris, one of the team's best midfielders, had mononucleosis and is still working himself back into shape after missing the first four games.

Matt Garcia, a preseason All-American at close defense, sat out three games with a bad ankle. Defenders Stephen Byrnes (knee), Jack Reid (off-field matter), and midfielders Greg Scott (hand) and Jake Deane (ankle) have also missed time.

"We aren't even thinking about [the NCAAs]," said Cannella, whose team will close the season against No. 6 Georgetown, No. 5 Syracuse and No. 8 Rutgers. "We're just trying to prepare the right way and, hopefully, we'll get a little more healthy and the guys will continue to jell."

Boiardi remembered

Saturday will be an emotional day in Ithaca, N.Y., when Cornell plays host to Yale in its first game since the death of senior defender George Boiardi.

Boiardi, 22, who was a multi-sport standout at the Landon School in Bethesda, died March 17 after being hit in the chest in defending a shot on goal late in the Big Red's game against Binghamton.

"He played with aggression, never backed off," said his father, Mario Boiardi, whose family chose not to have an autopsy done, but were told that their son died from heart trauma. The funeral was Monday. "He was so tough. I never worried about him."

Mario Boiardi said his son was hit in the throat by a ball twice in practice last year. One of the shots forced him to sit out a game and have minor surgery on his larynx.

The Boiardi family will watch Cornell play at Pennsylvania on April 3.

"The consolation is when I went to games, I went to watch George," Mario said. "Now, I'll be watching everybody. I've got like 45 boys on the team."

Ground balls

The kick save that Johns Hopkins sophomore goalie Scott Smith made on a shot by Michael Powell in the third quarter of Saturday's game cracked ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 list. ... Top-ranked Salisbury, the reigning Division III national champion, has outscored its opponents 166-40 en route to an 8-0 start.

Sun staff writer Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.

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