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UMass might be No. 1 after win at Bethpage

University of Massachusetts attack #19 Steve D'Amario, right,

University of Massachusetts attack #19 Steve D'Amario, right, reacts after scoring a goal to cut Drexel University's lead to 2-1 in the second period. (April 14, 2012) Credit: James Escher

The Minutemen are coming! The Minutemen are coming!

There is the possibility that the nation's No. 1 men's college lacrosse team could be the University of Massachusetts, a revered program but one that has never won an NCAA title.

This revolutionary development came closer to reality Saturday when the No. 2 Minutemen defeated Drexel, 8-6, in the second annual Battle at Bethpage, the showpiece event in an all-day lacrosse extravaganza at Bethpage High School that drew a crowd estimated at 4,000.

"What an unbelievable feeling. I grew up playing here," said Wantagh High School product Anthony Biscardi, who was born in Bethpage. "My whole family is here and a bunch of friends. It's my senior year and the last chance to play on Long Island."

Biscardi, a midfielder, was one of four Long Island products who started for undefeated Massachusetts (11-0), which has a chance to be ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history because current No. 1 Virginia was beaten by Duke on Friday night.

Biscardi had two goals, attack Will Manny (St. Anthony's) a goal and an assist, defenseman Tom Celentani (MacArthur) had an assist after an excellent clearing run and collected four ground balls, and goalie Tim McCormack (Long Beach) was outstanding with 14 saves.

Drexel (7-4) controlled the tempo in the first quarter, grabbing a 2-0 lead. UMass rallied to tie it at 3 by halftime, but neither team could get much offense going against swarming defenders and impenetrable goaltenders. Mark Manos, a 270-pounder, stopped eight shots for the Dragons. But a man-up goal by Colin Fleming with 6:50 left broke a tie at 4 and a low bullet by Steve D'Amario 90 seconds later was enough of a cushion for McCormack and the UMass defense.

"When we got behind 2-0, we trusted each other and kicked it into another gear," said Manny, who entered the game as the nation's leading points-per-game scorer (5.3).

Manny's slick pass to a cutting Connor Mooney with 56 seconds remaining gave the Minutemen a 7-5 lead. Biscardi iced it on an unassisted goal with 11 seconds left.

The subject of being ranked No. 1 clearly was not the players' No. 1 priority.

"I honestly hadn't thought about it," McCormack said. "It would be cool. It's the No. 1 next to your name, but it's also a big target on your back."

Manny acknowledged, "If it happens, great," but the quick, elusive junior reiterated: "We're not even thinking about it. There are a lot of teams that could be in that spot now. After every game, we just say, 'It's on to the next one.' "

Biscardi said the team "doesn't even talk about the rankings," a point driven home by UMass coach Greg Cannella.

"We won't even talk about it," said Cannella, a Lynbrook graduate in his 18th year at UMass. "It doesn't mean anything to me. We're only concerned about where we are at the end of the year."

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