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MLAX: Back of the Net – Mar. 17

Mar 17, 2014, 4:47 PM EST

Well, we hit another milestone in the schedule… Conference time!  CAA men’s lacrosse squads posted a 3-1 overall record in non-conference action last week, while league play also started and Massachusetts and Hofstra opened conference action with victories.

Last weekend conference play begasource:  n for some of the CAA teams as Massachusetts and Penn State faced off in Happy Valley and Delaware and Hofstra met up on Long Island.  Penn State, who had earlier in the week received its highest ranking in program history (No. 5) and then fell to #9 Denver in Colorado, welcomed the #14 Minutemen to University Park for one last visit as conference foes. UMass created a stir and captured the 8-6 upset over nationally-ranked PSU to start conference play, 1-0 and improve to 6-1 overall on the season. Hofstra, a squad that had been receiving votes for two weeks and even popped into the Top 20 in the Media Poll last week, entertained a Delaware crew that also had been receiving votes from the media. The Pride pulled through with an 11-9 victory and now Hofstra and UMass sit atop the CAA standings as Towson and Drexel will open conference play this weekend against Delaware and Hofstra, respectively.

UMass not only defeated Penn State last week, the Minutemen picked off Providence to go 2-0 on the week. Helping Massachusetts in the two victories were senior midfielder Connor Mooney, who tallied nine points with five goals and four assists on the week, and freshman attack Nick Mariano, who scored two goals and two assists in the victories.  For these student-athletes’ efforts, the league honored Mooney with CAA Men’s Lacrosse Player of the Week and Mariano as the CAA Rookie of the Week. Mariano receives this honor for the second time this season.  You can read more about their accomplishments from the past week on CAASports.com in the full weekly report.

Penn State and Massachusetts continued to be ranked both national polls this week, while Drexel steadied its spot  in the USILA Poll and Hofstra improved its ranking in the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. The Minutemen of UMass leaped above Penn State in both polls to No. 11 after earning an 8-6 CAA win over the Nittany Lions on Saturday. A week after being ranked the highest ever in program history (#5/7), Penn State fell to No. 12 in the USILA poll and No. 14 in the Warrior/IL Media Poll as they also fell at nationally-ranked Denver on the week. Drexel was also ranked (#20) in the USILA Poll, while Hofstra (#17) improved in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll.   Drexel and Hofstra also are receiving votes the opposite polls, while Towson is receiving votes in the coaches poll.

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Drexel’s Nick Saputo is ranked among Division I leaders in the top four in two categories – ground balls per game (2nd/10.00) and face-off winning percentage (4th/0.656). The league has some of the top face-off specialists as Delaware’s Tyler Barbarich and Penn State’s Drake Kreinz follow Saputo, ranked 6th (0.644) and 9th (0.629). UMass’ Joe Calvello is averaging 9.43 ground balls per game to follow Saputo and is ranked sixth nationally. PSU’s Shane Sturgis is second in the nation in scoring 3.83 goals per game and third with 5.33 points per game. UD’s Conor Peaks’ .596 save percentage in the cage ranks seventh among the national leaders. Full national rankings listed on page 5 of this report.