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2019 Conference Tournament Primer: CAA

Four quality teams all have a solid chance at winning the conference.

Thom Kendall - UMass Athletics

Welcome to conference championship week.

There’s 10 conferences and 10 conference tournaments. Nine of them get started next weekend, with the ACC holding their championship on Saturday. The Patriot League got their conference tournament started on Tuesday. We’ve also previewed the Big Ten, MAAC, and America East Tournaments.

Four teams makes the conference tournament at the site of the No. 1 seed (UMass). Nothing special with the format of this tourney.

Below is the conference tournament bracket, followed by short previews of the teams.

No. 1: UMass Minutemen

For the second straight season, UMass gets the No. 1 seed and hosting privileges for the CAA Tournament. Unlike last year, they did suffer a conference loss to Hofstra but have been fairly good in conference play, highlighted by a big road win against Towson. But the rest of the tournament field is catching up and any opponent will give the Minutemen a tough challenge.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Connolly has done a tremendous job taking over as the quarterback of the offense with a team-high 35 assists and 61 points. But freshman Gabriel Procyk has shined as a first-year player with a team-best 35 goals. He hasn’t produced on the passing side as Buddy Carr did a year ago, but Procyk has a bright future if he keeps up scoring goals for the Minutemen.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: UMass enters the conference tournament with the second best scoring defense in the country by giving up only 8.43 goals per game. While Isaac Paparo continues to dominate as a defenseman that isn’t afraid to push on offense, goalie Sean Sconone has been one of the best goalies in the nation. He has a 63% save percentage, best in the NCAA, and an 8.15 goals against average, second in the NCAA. He is the definition of being a brick wall.
  • UMASS WINS IF: Tom Meyers keeps up his 62.1% faceoff winning percentage and the defense can help Sconone keep seeing and stopping shots. UMass also has a good amount of other scoring in Kevin Tobin and Jeff Trainor at their disposal.

No. 2: Towson Tigers

Towson is the only team in the field that is in contention for an at-large bid if they lose the CAA Tournament and nothing else goes crazy in the other conference tournaments. They have a pretty good resume with wins over Loyola and Johns Hopkins, and have been competitive in games against Duke and Denver.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: After getting an increased role on a rebuilding Towson team last season, Brendan Sunday has broken through as a senior with a team-best 58 points on the year. He’s already more than doubled last year’s totals in goals, assists, and points. The senior is certainly the team’s leader on offense.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Zach Goodrich continues to be one of the best short stick defensive midfielders in the country, but defenseman Koby Smith has also had a big year as a sophomore. Not only is Smith tied with Goodrich for a team-best 15 caused turnovers, but Smith isn’t afraid to push it on offense with six goals and four assists on the year. He hasn’t scored a goal since the Denver game, but I wouldn’t count out seeing him score this weekend.
  • TOWSON WINS IF: Alex Woodall is healthy and continues giving Towson extra possessions. If he can’t go in one or both games this weekend, Jack McNallen has filled in well with a 51.9% faceoff percentage. He went 7-of-22 however in the win against Drexel, but did score two goals in the win.

No. 3: Delaware Blue Hens

Delaware was expected to reach the CAA Tournament this year. And they did. They recorded their first 10-win season since winning 11 games in 2011 when they also won the CAA. Slowly but surely, the Blue Hens are improving in Ben DeLuca’s second year as head coach.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Charlie Kitchen is Delaware’s best offensive player at attack with a team-high 60 points. But up top is freshman Tye Kurtz who is second on the team with 31 goals and 49 points. The Canadian has put up some big performances, including a 10-point game in Delaware’s CAA opener against Fairfield. But he’s only scored a goal and two assists in his last two games combined against Towson and UMass, teams Delaware will or likely will face in the conference tourney.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Three of the four teams in the CAA Tournament have very good goalies. Sconone with UMass, Tyler Canto with Towson, and Delaware has their own netminder in Matt DeLuca. Similar to Sconone, DeLuca ranks nationally in goals against average (7th at 9.28) and save percentage (2nd at 59.3%). He’s a big reason why Delaware is where they are.
  • DELAWARE WINS IF: The defense can hold opposing offenses to under 10 goals and if the Blue Hens can capitalize more on man-up opportunities. Towson went on an 11-2 run in their win over Delaware, while UMass outscored the Hens 3-1 in the final quarter to get a close win. Delaware is only 30.4% on EMO and went 0-for-8 in their last two games.

No. 4: Drexel Dragons

By far the darkhorse team in the conference tournament. Drexel has an underrated offense and may have finally found their goalie in freshman Ross Blumenthal. The growth of FOGO Jimmeh Koita is also worth pointing out after he won below 40% of his faceoffs in his freshman year in 2017. He’s won nearly 57% of his faceoffs this season.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Drexel has a very good one-two combo at attack. Reid Bowering has a career-high 43 goals which leads the team and one of two players with 50 points. The other is fellow attack mate Matthew Varian, who’s recorded 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points to lead Drexel.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: All three Dragon starting defensemen have at least 10 caused turnovers on the season. But their leader has been sophomore Sean Quinn with a team-leading 22 CTs.
  • DREXEL WINS IF: Their defense can tighten up a little bit. In their three games against the other three conference tournament teams, Drexel lost by a combined five goals (1 vs. UMass, 2 vs. Delaware and Towson). They will be competitive, but will need to perform slightly better. That should also mean asking more from Koita at the faceoff X. Meyers could be the best FOGO in the CAA if Woodall can’t go. Wing play will be big, especially against Paparo for UMass.

2019 CAA co-Offensive Player of the Year: Charlie Kitchen, Delaware
2019 CAA co-Offensive Player of the Year: Brendan Sunday, Towson
2019 CAA Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Sconone, UMass
2019 CAA Rookie of the Year: Tye Kurtz, Delaware
2019 CAA Coach of the Year: Greg Cannella, UMass

2019 All-CAA Men’s Lacrosse Team
Charlie Kitchen, A, Delaware
Brendan Sunday, A, Towson
Ryan Tierney, A, Hofstra
Dean DiSimone, M, Delaware
Zach Goodrich, M, Towson
Marshal King, M, Drexel
Jeff Trainor, M, UMass
Isaac Paparo, LSM/D, UMass
Austin Haynes, D, Delaware
Koby Smith, D, Towson
Alex Woodall, FOGO, Towson
Sean Sconone, G, UMass

Second Team
Dylan Beckwith, A, Fairfield
Reid Bowering, A, Drexel
Chris Connolly, A, UMass
Alex Brunner, M, Delaware
Collin Mailman, M, Drexel
Grant Maloof, M, Towson
Taylor Strough, M, Fairfield
Kevin Tobin, M, UMass
Gray Bodden, D, Towson
Sam Eisenstadt, D, UMass
Sean Quinn, D, Drexel
Eric Wenz, D, Hofstra
Thomas Aloe, LSM, Delaware
Tom Meyers, FOGO, UMass
Matt DeLuca, G, Delaware

All-Rookie Team
Sterlyn Ardrey, M, Hofstra
Ross Blumenthal, G, Drexel
Kevin Cutinella, M, UMass
Patrick Drake, A/M, Fairfield
Matthew Hill, M, UMass
Tye Kurtz, A, Delaware
Jack Mulcahy, A, Drexel
Gabriel Procyk, A, UMass
Mo Sillah, LSM/D, Towson
Garrett Zungalia, D, Towson