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March 22, 2017

Minutewomen win home-opener

Despite a back-and-forth momentum shift between the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team and Holy Cross, the Minutewomen prevailed, 15-6, Wednesday after they broke through a tired Crusader defense.

“I think this is a great first win,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said. “I think we came in here with our game plan and I thought we executed it pretty well from top to bottom defensively, in the midfield, and even in attack.”

Midfielder Jackie Lyons felt relieved after the game.

“The first one’s always great, it feels really good,” Lyons said. “Everyone on the team really contributed and that’s why the score was the way it was.”

The first half was a dominant one for the Minutewomen (1-1), as they led 7-1 at the half. The Crusaders (0-1) had trouble finding good shot selection, with the UMass defense holding them to four shots in the opening half.

“I thought we executed really well,” Venechanos said of the first half. “I thought we put some goals away, shot really well. A little sloppy defensively, their goals in the eight meters, but I liked our intensity.”

Goalkeeper Katie Florence had one save in the first half, as she stood behind a defense that waited for their opponents to challenge them.

One minute into the first half, UMass got on the board with a goal by midfielder Danielle Pelletier, assisted by attacker Ryan Gorman. Pelletier’s goal was followed by a powerful strike three minutes later by attacker Jesse O’Donnell.

UMass had five straight goals in the opening period of play, with O’Donnell earning two goals. Midfielder Haley Smith and attacker Colleen Mulligan also nabbed scores in the five-goal streak.

Attacker Katie Gardner followed up with a goal of her own for Holy Cross, but the Minutewomen did not let the goal dampen their hopes. O’Donnell responded with another goal in the opening period. Midfielder Merritt Cosgrove then added some insurance with about a minute left to secure the half for UMass.

The Minutewomen started off the second period with some dominant play, with midfielder Haley Smith scoring a goal two minutes after play resumed. The goal came from some quick passing plays between Lyons and the rest of the UMass offense.

O’Donnell nabbed her fourth goal of the contest a little over a minute later after a quick break through the defense. 

Holy Cross turned things in its favor after O’Donnell’s fourth strike. The Crusaders brought the ball back onto their side of the field and kept the pressure on the UMass defense. This led to two strikes, one off of a free-position shot after an infraction by freshman Cori Murray.

After a fast-break by the Minutewomen offense, Holy Cross regained possession and moved up the pitch with confidence. Another infraction came from the tired UMass defense, allowing the Crusaders to put in another goal and lessen the Minutewomen lead to five goals.

“We came back from that gain in the second half, they made a little bit of a run,” Venechanos said. “But then we kind of came in during the last ten minutes or so and really closed out that game. That’s something we need to do, have the opportunity to put away a good team like Holy Cross.”

Two minutes after the Crusaders mounted a comeback, Lyons took the ball straight to the net, scoring a goal to revitalize the Minutewomen. Despite the thrilling moment, Lyons did not let the goals cloud her game-vision.

“I just try to get reset, I don’t really think about it,” Lyons said. “I know there’s time still left in the game, so we’ve got to keep battling.”

Both teams were aggressive as time wound down in the game. After some cluttered play and a charging call on the Crusader’s side of the field, Holy Cross pushed the ball forward and eventually called a time out. The break seemed to slow the Minutewomen momentum down, as the Crusaders netted a goal to bring the lead down to five.

After the fifth goal by the Holy Cross offense, goalkeeper Christina Fey came into the game replacing Florence after an apparent injury to the starting goalkeeper.

“At the end [of the game] we could control the pass a little bit,” Venechanos said.

Lyons and Lauren Terracciano each netted a pair of scores in the final six minutes of play, putting the Crusaders to rest, and leading the Minutewomen to their first victory of the season.

 Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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