Hofstra Downs UMass to Clinch CAA Top Seed
by Stephen Sellner | LaxMagazine.com
In-Game Blog Replay
AMHERST, Mass. — Hofstra clinched the Colonial Athletic Association regular season crown Saturday night as the No. 10 Pride handled Massachusetts, 11-6, at Garber Field.
Hofstra will be the top seed in the CAA playoffs and will have homefield advantage throughout the four-team tournament.
“It was one of our goals to be in the CAA tournament,” Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said, “and now to be in the CAA tournament and to be the No. 1 seed and to have a home game on that Wednesday, that’s a great goal we had and now we can check that box.”
Junior Mike Malave netted a career-high five goals for the Pride (10-3, 4-0 CAA). Sophomore Sam Llinares had two goals and three assists in the win.
Hofstra has won 10 of its last 11 contests after starting the season 0-2. The Pride knocked off No. 11 Cornell in overtime last Saturday and has won five straight.
“There’s a great vibe to this team right now,” Malave said. “We really feel like we’re going and getting hot at the right time. [The] end of the season is when you want to play your best lacrosse and that’s what we’ve been doing."
UMass (7-5, 1-3 CAA) pulled within one at 6-5 with 3:54 left in the second, but Malave added an insurance goal 38 seconds later and scored later in the third to put the visitors up three and help the Hofstra pull away.
“We want to just keep our poise the entire game,” Malave said. “No matter what happens, we don’t want to let ourselves get down and that’s what we did today.”
Freshman Kris Clarke won 15-of-21 faceoffs for the Pride, dominating UMass senior Joe Calvello. The Minutemen didn’t get their first possession until 4:26 into the game.
Hofstra jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, including two goals on its first two possessions. Malave opened the scoring with a goal 50 seconds into the game, followed by a pair of goals from senior Torin Varn. Llinares assisted the opening three goals.
“When Sam has the ball, there’s a sense of calmness,” Tierney said of Llinares running the offense. “He does a really good job with it and very rarely does he make mistakes.”
Hofstra outshot UMass, 38-25, and at the end of the third had a 32-14 advantage.
Redshirt sophomore goalie Zach Oliveri had 15 saves for the Minutemen. Junior Chris Selva had eight saves in net for the Pride.
Hofstra faces Penn State next Saturday in its final regular season game. Meanwhile, UMass travels to Delaware next week with the winner securing the fourth and final spot in the CAA tournament with the Nittany Lions not eligible for the conference tournament after a September vote by the CAA athletic directors due to their move to the Big Ten Conference next season.
Hofstra missed the CAA playoffs the previous two years, something Llinares and Co. are happy to avenge this time around.
“The last two seasons didn’t go the way we wanted it, and we wanted to make a statement,” Llinares said. “And I think we’re on track for doing that.”
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