The eighth-ranked Hofstra men’s lacrosse team has a crucial game against 15th-ranked UMass (8-3) Saturday at 3 p.m. in the ESPNU Warrior Classic at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. that could decide he Pride’s postseason fate. ESPN lacrosse analyst Quint Kessenich, who will be providing color commentary for the game on ESPNU, spent some time with “Inside the Pride” to break down what to expect in this key Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) matchup and what it will mean in the bigger picture as the Pride (11-1) aim for its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Kessenich was a standout goalie at Johns Hopkins University in the late 80’s and was a teammate of Hofstra men’s lacrosse head coach Seth Tierney while playing for the Blue Jays.
Inside the Pride: With Rentschler Field being so close to the UMass campus do you expect Hofstra to be facing a hostile environment Saturday?
Quint Kessenich: Not really. What I find in these big stadiums is because they are so big it tends to kind of mute out the fans who are there. It makes 5,000 fans look small and it’s just not as overwhelming as when you are on a campus and there is maybe 2,000 fans there but it feels like you are at a college basketball game.
Inside the Pride: What stands out to you when looking at this Hofstra-UMass matchup?
Quint Kessenich: Faceoffs are big because both teams are really good in that department….. UMass is a terrific team with faceoffs and groundballs. They generate a lot of shots but if you look at their shooting percentage in their three losses that’s where they lost. They shot the ball horrifically. They have a pretty low shooting percentage in comparison to Hofstra. When I look at Hofstra I see a team that has great numbers across the board, good shooting percentage, good special teams, excellent goals against average, high faceoff percentage. I don’t know how much of that comes from playing against some lesser-tiered schools.
Inside the Pride: Are their any individual matchups that stick out in this game?
Quint Kessenich: The best players on the field for both teams are the attackmen. Hofstra’s attack with [Jay] Card, [Jaime] Lincoln and [Stephen] Bentz is a really nice group. Seth runs some pretty slick formations to get those guys and get the ball moving. UMass certainly has to control those three. UMass is all about Will Manny….He’s a lefthander and is really playing well lately and Art Kell, who is a big lumbering right-handed attackman who scores a lot of goals so you have to stop those two…..Steven DeNapoli, Seth [Tierney] calls him the team MVP… everything I have seen him of him in the past he is terrific. He has amazing feet. He is really a fierce competitor. I’m excited to watch him cover some of these UMass midfielders.
Inside the Pride: How important is this game for Hofstra in its hopes of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should it not win the CAA automatic qualifier?
Quint Kessenich: This is a big game for them because from an at-large standpoint you are looking at a low strength of schedule and a low RPI and it’s going to be a challenge. I think they either have to take the AQ or run the table and maybe lose in the CAA finals to get an at-large.
Inside the Pride: What do you think of the ESPNU Warrior Classic as an event going into its second year of existence?
Quint Kessenich: I like it. I just think it needs to be marketed and publicized. We’ve got to get the whole state of Connecticut behind it….I love the fact that the game can be played in some non traditional areas to expose it to people. I’d much rather play at a place like Columbus, Ohio or Atlanta or Orlando, Florida and expose the Division I game…. If I were the commissioner I’d make it mandatory that every top playing team had to play one neutral site game somewhere for the good of the game.