With four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the men's lacrosse team at Hofstra is not used to having its postseason hopes on the line in April. But one more loss will virtually eliminate the Pride from qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, which is its only lifeline to the NCAAs.
Standing firmly in the way is Massachusetts (11-0, 4-0). The Minutemen are tied with Loyola as the top-ranked team in the nation. "It's a big one,'' Hofstra senior goalkeeper Andrew Gvozden said of Saturday's matchup at Gillette Stadium. "It's always a big one. This year, it just happens to be the biggest. It's a must win for us. For us, this is playoffs. We need to win every single game or we're done.''
Four teams make the CAA Tournament. Hofstra (6-6, 2-2) is in fifth place behind Towson (7-5, 2-2), which holds the tiebreaker from a double-overtime victory over the Pride on March 31. Hofstra plays at Penn State on April 28 and though a number of playoff scenarios still exist, Hofstra likely has to win its last two games to qualify for the conference tournament.
"We let two get away in Drexel and Towson, otherwise we'd be 4-0 in the conference and we'd be going in with a different frame of mind,'' Pride coach Seth Tierney said. "It didn't happen, for some reason we didn't win those games, the other teams beat us. Now we have a tall task. We've got to go up to Foxboro, go into it and know it's a playoff game.''
Tierney is a friend of UMass coach Greg Cannella, who attended Lynbrook High School. "He's done a wonderful job,'' Tierney said. "Hopefully he's got continued success -- but not against us this week.''
Hofstra is 17-19 in the series with UMass, which started in 1974. Pride midfielder Adrian Sorichetti said the rivalry should make the respective records insignificant.
"Not taking anything away from UMass and their team and their ranking, but when it comes down to a conference game anything goes,'' he said. "It's just going to be a battle. We've just got to keep our heads up coming off those overtime losses, just steppingstones.''
Gvozden has played in the NCAAs since his freshman year. "As much as I don't want to think about it, I can't really tune that out,'' he said. "We always want to get back to the playoffs.''