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UMass looks for first win in home opener

Looking for its first win of the 2010 season, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will host Holy Cross in its home opener today at McGuirk Stadium.

The Minutewomen (0-1) will attempt to rebound from their 18-6 loss to five-time defending national champion and No. 1 ranked Northwestern in their season-opener nearly two weeks ago.

In that contest, UMass fell into an early hole, trailing 7-0 after the first 15 minutes, 45 seconds of play. Jackie Lyons and Nina Sarcona, however, scored back-to-back goals in a 38-second span to cut the deficit to five goals.

The Wildcats (1-0) came right back with seven more goals to end the half while outshooting the Minutewomen 37-14. In the second half, UMass allowed only two scores but couldn’t close the gap with three goals, including one from senior Merritt Cosgrove.

Cosgrove, a Carlsbad, Calif. native, played in her home state for the first time in her collegiate career.

Northwestern’s Shannon Smith scored six goals and added three assists, setting new career highs in goals, assists, and points for the Wildcats.

Though the game against the Northwestern didn’t pan out like UMass coach Alexis Venechanos hoped, it did give the Minutewomen aspects to work on before facing the Crusaders.

“We have a lot to work off from this past week and I’m excited that we had almost a week to prepare for Holy Cross,” Venechanos said on Tuesday. “We’ve been going back to fundamentals and things we can control and just got back to UMass lacrosse.”

Holy Cross, meanwhile, will begin its season on Wednesday against UMass. In 2009, the Crusaders recorded a 5-11 overall record, while going 3-3 in the Patriot League.

Having already played a team this season, and a good one at that, Venechanos feels her team is currently in a better position than its opponent.

“We’re hoping we can use that to our advantage,” Venechanos said. “Getting those nerves out in the first game will hopefully give us better opportunities to put ourselves in better situations [today].”

Holy Cross is coached by UMass alum Stephanie Ridolfi ’00 and returns its top three scorers from 2009: Katie Gardner, Meg O’Leary, and Megan Fenton. Goalkeeper Amy Martin also returns after posting a 12.29 goals against average and a .462 save percentage in 15 starts last season.

“They run an attack that is very good and deliberate, so we’re going to have to play a good team defense to stop them,” Venechanos said. “On attack, we’re going to have to put our shots away when we get our opportunities. They’re greatly improved from last year and we always have a battle against them, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Crusaders have been picked to finish fifth in the 2010 Patriot League preseason poll as voted on by head coaches and sports information directors from around the league. After missing the Patriot League Tournament by one game last season, Holy Cross will look to win its third league championship in the last five years.

The Minutewomen lead the all-time series, 9-4, though Holy Cross has won three of the last four meetings. At McGuirk Stadium, UMass has lost only once to the Crusaders, boasting a 5-1 record on the home turf.

“I think we’re just excited to play, home or away,” Venechanos said. “Having it be at home, we are a lot more comfortable and used to our stadium. We’re just trying to worry about ourselves, whether we’re playing home or away, it doesn’t really matter.”

Five of the first seven games to begin the season for the Minutewomen will be in Amherst, where they were 5-2 last season.

In the contest last year with Holy Cross, the Minutewomen suffered an 11-7 loss in Worcester in their season opener. UMass trailed that game, 6-3, at halftime, but managed to score three consecutive goals to even the score.

The Crusaders, however, answered with a four-goal run over the final 17 minutes to claim the victory.

Venechanos and the Minutewomen will look for a different result today when the game begins at 3 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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