April 14, 2012

Are They No. 1? UMass Beats Drexel to Stay Unbeaten

by Chris Mascaro | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Anthony Biscardi scored twice for UMass in an 8-6 win over CAA foe Drexel at the Battle of Bethpage II on Long Island. The Minutemen improved to 11-0 for the first time in program history and are in the running for their first-ever No. 1 ranking come Monday.
© Matt and John Risley (file) 

BETHPAGE, N.Y. -- High school boys competing on fields much like the one at Bethpage High dream of one day playing for a top-ranked college program in the country.

UMass reversed the path on Saturday.

The second-ranked Minutemen took what could be the final step in their inexorable march up the collegiate rankings with an 8-6 win over Drexel at the Battle at Bethpage II at Bethpage High on Long Island.

The victory on the high school turf, coupled with No. 1 Virginia's loss to Duke on Friday and No. 3 Johns Hopkins' loss to rival Maryland on Saturday, may allow UMass (11-0, 4-0 CAA) to supplant the Cavaliers (10-2, 2-1 ACC) in the top spot when the new rankings are unveiled on Monday. Loyola, a 12-9 winner at Denver Saturday night and also undefeated, will be in consideration as well.

It would be the first time in UMass' 59-year-old history that it held the No. 1 spot. Yet none of the current players seemed fazed by it.

"We don't really pay attention to the rankings, we like to prepare for what's ahead of us," said Anthony Biscardi, who played high school lacrosse at nearby Wantagh (N.Y.) High in Nassau Country and scored his 13th and 14th goals of the season on Saturday. "You can't really live in it, otherwise someone is gonna come up and get ya."

Will Manny, who grew up two towns away from Bethpage in Masapequa, added, "Whatever it is, it is ... on to the next one. We face the next challenge head on."

Saturday's challenge, Drexel, was a stiff one. It wasn't until back-to-back goals by Colin Fleming and Steve D'Amario that the Minutemen led for good, 6-4, with 5:20 to play.

Fleming scored on a hard-skidding bounce shot that was placed in one of the few spots mammoth Drexel goalie Mark Manos (eight saves) couldn't save it — just over the head of his stick above his left shoulder. D'Amario's unassisted goal, his second of the day, was the clincher, as two goals by each team in the final 1:38 cancelled each other out.

The UMass defense killed four penalties, 3:30 worth of time on the clock, and another Nassau resident, goalie Tim McCormack of Long Beach, made 14 saves and was named Team MVP.

"Every shot is a big one when it's tight like that," McCormack said. "The defense has given me, all year, a shot. As long as they're doing their job, it makes it that much easier on me."

Drexel's Ben McIntosh scored the game's first goal with 2:06 left in the first quarter, and then Aaron Prosser scored 28 seconds later to give the Dragons (5-7, 3-2) a surprising 2-0 lead.

Manny's 32nd goal of the season at the 7:39 mark in the second quarter tied the game at 2. Biscardi's score with 1:54 left in the first half tied it at 3. And the Minutemen took their first lead on Greg Rushing's second goal of the season 1:05 into the second half.

Andrew Vivian tied the game at 4 for Drexel at 12:01 of the fourth quarter before Fleming and D'Amario gave UMass an insurmountable lead.

Despite a perfect record and three wins over teams ranked in the top 20, UMass coach Greg Cannella acknowledged his team probably isn't as deep as teams like Virginia or No. 3 Johns Hopkins. That said, the unpredictable nature of college lacrosse this season may lend itself to a non-traditional power making a deep playoff run.

"It is wide open this year for schools like UMass and Loyola [No. 4 this week] to come in and do a good job," said Cannella, whose hometown of Lynbrook is also in Nassau County. "But what that means now will probably mean a lot less than it will in May."

But for one week at least, the dream from the high school field will become a collegiate reality: No. 1.

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