UMass makes 1st final four

Connolly's goal in OT caps comeback

Massachusetts 11 Hofstra 10

May 21, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- Getting to its first NCAA tournament final four by any method would have been a thrill for Massachusetts. Yesterday, the Minutemen picked an especially dramatic way to earn a historic trip to the biggest stage for Division I men's lacrosse.

Freshman attackman Jim Connolly scored the last of his career-high five goals by converting a point-blank shot with 1:53 left in overtime. That completed an amazing comeback and lifted Massachusetts to an 11-10 quarterfinal victory over Hofstra before 8,335 at sold-out LaValle Stadium.

Unseeded Massachusetts, the only team to beat third-seeded Hofstra (17-2) all year, ended the Pride's record 17-game winning streak to reach Saturday's semifinals. The Minutemen (12-4) will play the winner of today's Maryland-Princeton quarterfinal at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Nearly three months ago, Massachusetts controlled much of an 11-7 win over the visiting Pride on icy Garber Field, in the season opener for both teams. Yesterday on the sunny campus of Stony Brook University, the Minutemen erased a 10-5 fourth-quarter deficit by scoring the game's final six goals, and did not take their first lead until they ended Hofstra's season in stunning fashion.

The Minutemen had trouble sustaining any offense for much of the day, despite the dominance of faceoff man Jake Deane, who won 20 of 25 draws. But, after Hofstra took a 10-5 lead with 9:46 remaining in the fourth quarter on a bouncing, 12-yard shot by senior midfielder John Keysor, the Minutemen owned the last nine minutes of regulation and the extra period, while the Pride collapsed.

"This was an incredible performance by our players, a testament to their perseverance and their hard work throughout the year, to come back and win this game in overtime," Massachusetts coach Greg Cannella said. "It was a gutsy performance for a freshman on this stage."

Connolly, who scored three of the Minutemen's first five goals to keep Massachusetts hanging around, completed a three-goal, 94-second turnaround by skipping a 15-yard shot past Hofstra senior Matt Southard to make it 10-8 with 6:29 left in regulation. Then, in overtime, after Massachusetts freshman goalie Jonathan Schneider (eight saves) stopped a point-blank shot by Hofstra midfielder Mike Unterstein with 2:42 left, Connolly slipped open down low, as junior midfielder Brett Garber drew a slide up top.

Garber delivered the pass, and Connolly beat Southard easily for the game-winner.

"I started to clear through on the dodge [by Garber], and my man went out to double-team him. I cut behind the back of [the defender's] head and got open," Connolly said. "I just tried to put it in the white part of the net. Now, we're going to the final four."

And the Pride was left to wonder how its potential first final four trip got away. It fell apart down the stretch after using open-field hustle and one-on-one moves on offense to build a 10-5 lead. After the third quarter, Hofstra was out-shot 14-5, was beaten to 11 of 16 ground balls and failed on three clears after converting on all 15 attempts. Six fourth-quarter turnovers also hurt Hofstra.

"The last 9 1/2 minutes, we somewhat broke down all over the field," Hofstra coach John Danowski said. "We didn't play the last nine minutes like we played the first 51. We certainly lost our poise."

Massachusetts, which never led until the game's last shot and reached this game by knocking off sixth-seeded Cornell in a one-goal, back-and-forth contest a week earlier, kept believing it could advance. The Minutemen, led by sophomore defenseman Sean Krygier, shut out junior attackman Athan Iannucci (62 goals coming in). They absorbed a four-goal effort by senior attackman Chris Unterstein, but knocked him out of the game with a concussion. And they had Deane dominating the faceoff game.

After senior attackman Sean Morris and Connolly scored to cut the Hofstra lead to 10-8, the Pride got tight. Then, junior Andrew Recchione cut to the crease and scored to make it 10-9 with 4:14 left.

After Southard stuffed Connolly twice in close and Hofstra lost the ball for having too many on the field, sophomore midfielder Rory Pedrick tied the score at 10 by ripping a 15-yard shot past Southard into the upper right corner with 49 seconds left in regulation.

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

UMass 2 2 1 5 1

Hofstra 3 2 4 1 0

Goals: M- Connelly 5, Morris 2, Stabert, Pedrick, Recchione, Yaman; H- C. Unterstein 4, M. Unterstein 2, Treubig 2, Dooley, Keysor. Assists: M- Jacovina 2, Stabert 2, Garber, Morris, Pedrick; H- K. Unterstein. Saves: M- Schneider 8; H- Southard 10. A- 8, 335.

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