That’s Latin for “seize the fail,” FYI.
For those of you who are new to UMass sports fandom, this past weekend probably felt like a massive stomach punch (although the rest of us, in hindsight, probably should have known better.) Hockey got positively smoked by Quinnipiac (?!) in a game that was nowhere near as close as the 4-2 final score would indicate. This coming mere days after squeaking out just one goal against Hockey East cellar dwellers Vermont in a lifeless 2-1 defeat. Actually, truth be told, the Mass Attack has now sleepwalked through four games in a row. Any semblance of offensive prowess that they displayed in the early stages of this season seems to have been lost during that less-than-stellar Northeastern win, seemingly all wasted on the 7-2 drubbing of Holy Cross that now feels like it occurred sometime during the 1940s. No, much like windmills, scoring DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!, but you know what I mean. At least in the NU and Maine games, the team looked like it cared a bit. Not so much on that three-game “road trip” to nowhere. QU, Lowell, and Vermont accounted for all six UMass victories last year. They’ve accounted for three consecutive losses and a distinct, familiar sinking feeling.
Obviously, fan discontent with this squad is reaching new highs (Christ, even Dick Baker is pissed), and being New England sports fans, everyone’s looking for a scapegoat. Last year, Marcou’s minus-a-billion plus/minus rating was an easy target, but he’s been distinctly less awful this season (though still not approaching Kublin levels just yet), giving credence to the theory that injuries played a big part in his struggles. The goalies have all been inconsistent, but each has shown flashes of brilliance. And then there’s Toot. Is the talent he’s recruiting simply not good enough to compete? Does the departure of Dennehy and his subsequent rise to glory playing in a high school rink telling us something? Is Toot’s “system” simply flawed, no matter what pieces he puts into it? All solid questions, all worth discussion, all of which will bring a variety of answers. (I’m going with maybe, absolutely, and its starting to look that way, respectively. But that’s just me.) But look, Toot’s not going anywhere. The guy’s a fixture, the longest-tenured by far of UMass’s “big three” coaches, and by all accounts, a great guy who does a lot for the community and for the school. He’s toyed with retirement as recently as last year, before signing his current deal which brings him through one more season after this one. Between that and getting rid of the Glenn Beck lookalike who was, ahem, “running” our football team for the past couple years in favor of an actual D1 football coach (hopefully), they’re not gonna pay to get rid of Toot now. I would be stunned if he was let go during this season, no matter how bad things may get. Now, if they miss the HEA Playoffs on the other hand…that’ll change our tune. There is no way this team should miss the playoffs in such a down year in the conference.
But, being the optimist that I am, I don’t foresee that being a possibility. Last year’s team improved markedly from first to second semester. They’ve hit a rough patch, and they do still have three dates with the #1 team in the country ahead, but I think they’ve got it in them to turn this around yet. It starts with actually giving a shit about these non-conference games. A game in shitty southern Connecticut on Thanksgiving weekend, I can sort of understand. But if you can’t get up for two Ivy League teams coming into the Bill (where, somehow, UMass remains undefeated, I should add) to close out the first half strong, you’re making a big statement on the team’s heart, regardless of how ultimately meaningless the games might be.
Let’s all take a deep breath for now and re-assess where this team stands in a week. Even then, there’s plenty of season ahead. It…gets…better?
Oh, also, bazkettaball. That’s what the Charleston game devolved to, by the way, after Chazketball was cut short by early foul trouble. The result was UMass hoops’s first really embarrassing loss of the season (I still believe in that Florida State team, despite how the rest of the Bahamas tourney went for them). I’m glad that the Battle 4 Atlantis (sigh) is over and the guys are back home and, you know, not playing three games in three nights of up-tempo ball. In less than an hour, they’ll tip off against the Towson Tigers, and since this is not lacrosse, it stands to reason that a return to winning ways is to be expected. Remember, UMass’s chances at an at-large bid are pretty reliant on winning a lion’s share of the shitty non-conf games (and, likely, one road win against a power conference team, like, say, Saturday at Miami) as well as a strong run through the conference schedule. The FSU loss didn’t hurt much, but Charleston might be a big blow later on. I’m getting way ahead of myself here, though. Let’s see how the guys fare tonight, back at home with a few days of rest under their belts and a god-awful opponent on the docket. This is the kind of gimme game (ahem, Maine) that can really derail a season, so it kind of sucks in that there’s so little to gain with a win and so much to lose with a loss.
So, uhh, win, please. I’d like to go back to that, k? Thanks.