A regular-season win does not necessarily avenge a postseason loss from the previous year. But for the Drexel men’s lacrosse team, there is nothing wrong with a victory over a rival and a 4-1 Colonial Athletic Association record.
The Dragons defeated the University of Massachusetts Amherst April 13 by a score of 15-14 in a closely played game from start to finish. It was the first win by Drexel over UMass since 2010 and the team’s first-ever win at Garber Field. The Blue and Gold moved to an overall record of 9-3 on the season and moved up to No. 17 in both of the national men’s lacrosse polls, as well as No. 15 in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index.
“We harped all week on our kids that if we beat UMass then we lock up a spot in the CAA playoffs,” head coach Brian Voelker said. “It was definitely a back-and-forth game, and we were excited to come away with the victory.”
Junior midfielder Ben McIntosh scored a season high of five goals, as well as one assist, and earned co-CAA Player of the Week honors in the process. The six-point performance tied McIntosh’s best output of the season, which came via four goals and two assists in a 20-19 win Feb. 23 over the University at Albany, State University of New York.
Still, the ultimate heroics of the game came from an unfamiliar source. Freshman attack Chris Frederick, making his first career start in place of injured sophomore attack Andrew Vivian, scored the first four points of his career for the Dragons. Frederick notched two assists and two goals, including the eventual game winner when he put Drexel up 15-13 with 4:28 remaining.
“It was back and forth with the coaching staff on who was going to [replace Andrew], and we decided to go with Chris,” Voelker said. “First play of the game, he buries a goal on the fast break. … He made the most of his opportunity and helped us win the game.”
Also producing points for the Dragons were senior attack Robert Church with two goals and two assists, junior attack Nick Trizano with three scores and one assist, sophomore midfielder Ryan Belka with three helpers, and freshman attack Frank Fusco with a hat trick. When he scored at the 9:38 mark of the third quarter, Fusco continued his streak as the only Drexel player with at least one goal in every game this season.
But the Dragons were not the only ones on the field with high-scoring players, as UMass also had its fair share of box score stuffers. Senior attack Kyle Smith led all scorers with three goals and five assists, sophomore attack Grant Whiteway tallied five goals, and senior attack Will Manny added two goals and four assists.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team holding more than a two-goal lead at any point during the contest. Even though it was an offensive shootout, the difference was ultimately the goaltending of Drexel freshman Cal Winkelman. The goalie from Skaneateles, N.Y., made 11 saves on 25 shots, including three in the final three minutes, to allow the Dragons to hold their 15-14 lead.
Last season was especially bad for the Dragons against the Minutemen, as UMass defeated Drexel once in the regular season by a score of 8-6 and once again in the CAA championship game in an 18-12 blowout.
“There was some extra attention to the fact that [UMass] took from us what we wanted to get last year,” Voelker said, referring to a CAA title. “We had to play in a hostile environment, and it definitely gave us some motivation. [The win] felt good for the guys that played last year.”
But things are much different this year for the Minutemen. After being ranked in the top five nationally nearly all of last season and claiming the CAA championship in April, UMass currently sits at the bottom of the conference with an 0-4 record. Meanwhile, the Dragons improved to 4-1 and kept pace with The Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions, who are 4-0 in CAA play.
“The most important thing is that we’ve locked up a spot in the CAA playoffs,” Voelker said. “Towson is a huge game because we still have a chance to host [the tournament].”
Next up for Drexel is a 4 p.m. home matchup April 20 against Towson University at Vidas Field. The Tigers sit at 3-1 in the CAA, right behind the Dragons in the conference standings, and are led by attack Thomas DeNapoli. The junior from East Rockaway, N.Y., has 30 goals and 11 assists on the season, which is good enough for second in the CAA behind Drexel’s McIntosh, who has 30 goals and 14 assists for 44 total points.