May 2, 2009

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The #15 UMass men's lacrosse team is returning to the NCAA Tournament after a dramatic 11-10 overtime win at Rutgers on Saturday as the Minutemen captured the ECAC Lacrosse League Championship and the conference's automatic qualifier into the postseason. It is UMass' 18th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2006 when the Minutemen reached to the NCAA Championship game. The Minutemen head into the NCAAs with a 9-5 overall record and with their fourth ECAC conference title with a 6-1 league mark. UMass also won the league crown in 2001, 2002 and 2005. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be televised on ESPNU live on Sunday at 9 p.m.

Senior Tim Balise scored the game-winner, his fifth goal of the game on a bounce shot coming around the right post 1:37 into overtime to set off a huge celebration on the field. That goal came after senior goalie Doc Schneider made his 19th and final save on a shot by Rutgers' Gerhard Buehning a minute into overtime.

UMass' senior attackers Jim Connolly (3 goals) and Balise (5) combined for eight goals. A huge difference maker was freshman face-off man Anthony Toresco, who won 11-of-18 in the most significant playing time of his career.

Connolly had scored what looked to be the game-winner on an impossible angle while being defended with 2:30 left in regulation to give UMass a 10-9 lead. But Buehning scored his fourth of the game with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter to deadlock the game at 10-10 and send it to overtime.

Buehning's goal tied the game for the seventh time as the game was tied at 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Junior Bobby Hayes scored a go-ahead goal to make it 9-8 UMass with 12:09 left in the fourth quarter off a pretty pass from Rory Pedrick. Rutgers' Kory Kelly tied the game on a long shot with 3:57 left in regulation to deadlock the game at 9-9.

UMass fell into an early 5-1 hole late in the first quarter before ripping off five goals in a row to take a 6-5 lead early in the third quarter. After Rutgers regained the lead, UMass' senior attackers took over as Connolly scored an amazing over the shoulder goal to tie the game 7-7 with 2:54 left in the third quarter. Then Balise scored his fourth goal of the game with 1:57 to give UMass an 8-7 edge.

Balise capped UMass' initial rally to retake the lead with a bounce shot from around the right post 2:11 into the second half, making it 6-5 Minutemen. It was his third goal of the game, giving him his 11th career hat trick. The Minutemen's run of 26:03 holding Rutgers scoreless ended on Kory Kelly's laser shot to the top left corner with 7:49 left in the third quarter, tying the game at 6-6.

The second quarter was the Schneider show as the senior goalie made nine saves in keeping UMass in the game as the Minutemen rallied to tie the game before halftime with three goals in 1:51. That run started on a spinning goal by Connolly with 2:51 left in the half. Rory Pedrick and Balise scored to tie the game with 1:00 left in the first half.

Things got off to a bad start for UMass after Art Kell's opening goal as Rutgers reeled of the next five goals, all from different players to lead 5-1 on Justin Pennington's high rip with 3:52 left in the first quarter. Balise finally ended the bleeding with a shot inside the left post with 1:12 left in the first quarter to make it 5-2 Rutgers at the end of the first quarter.

Again, UMass will learn its postseason opponent on Sunday at 9 p.m., as the NCAA Tournament Selection Show airs on ESPNU. The NCAA Tournament action can be heard on 100.9 FM WRNX next weekend as games take place on both Saturday and Sunday. Every game will televised on ESPNU.