NCAA lacrosse: Buddy Carr has UMass reliving its glory days, back in the NCAA tournament
The first achievement arrived and surprised him. The other, he and his classmates had been trying to attain for years.
Very few lacrosse players from the Seacoast have enjoyed — at the Division I level — three-day stretches like the one Buddy Carr got to experience a week ago with UMass.
A senior attack, the former Exeter High School standout is headed to his first NCAA tournament. That achievement was clinched when the Minutemen (12-4) beat Towson 12-8 in the CAA final on Saturday in Amherst, Mass., the program's first league title since 2012.
"It's been a goal all four years," said Carr, who was named All-CAA first team, and leads his team in goals (36), assists (24) and points (60). "To finally be able to do that on Garber (Field) was a privilege."
That achievement came two days after a more personal one.
In last Thursday's 10-6 semifinal win against Hofstra, Carr scored two goals and set up two others. The four points gave him 113 for his UMass career and pushed him past the total of 110 accumulated by his father, Kelley Carr, a current Exeter High School assistant who played for the Minutemen from 1985-88.
"I guess it's a little nice to have bragging rights over him," said Buddy. "I thought he had way more than that."
On Saturday, Carr's unique story of family, lacrosse skill and perseverance will arrive at its biggest chapter yet, as UMass takes on third-seeded Yale (13-3) in the opening round of the 17-team NCAA tournament.
Yale, despite getting upset by Cornell in the Ivy League tournament final, is regarded by many as a team that can win it all. But UMass played the Bulldogs tough back in late February, losing just 13-10.
"No different than how we approach any game," Carr said. "We know they're a great team. They've got a whole lineup of great players. We'll just prepare for them like any other game and try to go 1-0, like any other weekend."
While Yale attack Ben Reeves is a strong candidate for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation's top college player, Phillips Exeter Academy product Chris Keating has been a key cog on that team's defense, starting every game but one.
The 60 points that Carr's put up as a senior are four more that what he notched his first three seasons at UMass combined. Part of that is the natural progression of age, as older players slide into bigger roles. But part is a tweak to his position.
"I've moved up above the net this year and I've been able to get set up by my teammates," he said. "They've been doing so much for me."
He and sophomore Jeff Trainor are one of just 11 tandems in Division I to have each eclipsed 50 points, while freshman Chris Connolly is the other big gun up top.
"Buddy's the elder statesman as a senior," said UMass coach Greg Cannella earlier this season. "He's done a nice job mentoring those guys and working with those guys each and every day. I think he realizes that's part of his leadership role."
The player who longtime Exeter coach Gerry Holly calls "probably the best player to come through our program" landed at UMass despite a serious skiing accident that wiped out his junior year of high school as he recovered from surgery to repair a broken tailbone.
All of a sudden, a career that had been on a rising trajectory (he'd been named All-State as a sophomore and honorable mention as a freshman) was in jeopardy.
"He was lucky to even play again," said Holly. "Then, when he came back, it was amazing he was able to play again at that level."
Playing with his younger brother, Jack, who's a sophomore on a strong club team at Colorado, Buddy earned All-America honors as a senior, leading the Blue Hawks to an 11-8 record and a spot in the Division I semifinals.
He's also going to leave the UMass program in better shape than he found it. The Minutemen went 5-10 his freshman year and 4-9 the next, before making a jump to 7-8 last season and reaching the CAA championship, where they lost to Towson.
Of his 116 career points, which lodges him in the all-time top 30 at UMass, 44 have been assists, teasing the versatility of his game and the way he sees the field.
"I think Buddy's a very unselfish player out there," said Cannella.
Kelley Carr was a teammate of Cannella's during a golden era of UMass lacrosse in the late '80s. The Minutemen went 28-11 overall his last three seasons, reaching the NCAAs in each of those years. In 1986, he was part of the famous "Garber vs. Garber" game in the NCAAs, with father Dick and UMass ousting son Ted, who was then the coach at UNH.
Carr and the Minutemen recognize they have a tough challenge Saturday. The winner will play in the quarterfinals next weekend against either No. 6 Loyola or Virginia.
Whenever his own stellar senior season ends, Buddy Carr will be coming home with the family scoring mark — and his own Amherst legacy.
"(Kelley) was saying, 'I hope he catches me and piles on as much as he can,'" said Holly. "It was a good laugh for everybody."