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May 11, 2016

UM hosts Crimson Saturday afternoon

Every opponent the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has faced this season has opened their season against the Minutewomen.

That trend will continue this Saturday, when UMass (2-2) takes on Harvard in the Crimson’s season opener. The contest marks the second of four straight home games for the Minutewomen, while Harvard begins the year with four consecutive road games.

UMass is coming off a gritty 10-8 loss to No. 10 Boston University in game played in rainy, slushy conditions Wednesday afternoon at McGuirk Stadium. After allowing seven goals in the first half, the Minutewomen held the Terriers to three scores in the second half, giving them a chance to make a comeback.

A late rally, however, came up just short, as those three goals were all BU needed to claim the victory. In the game, junior Jackie Lyons led UMass with three goals for her second hat trick of the season, with the first coming in a win against Connecticut. Not to be outdone, Traci Landy scored four of the Terriers’ 10 goals in the game.

Jesse O’Donnell, the leading scorer for the Minutewomen this season, scored a pair of goals down the stretch to close the gap. UMass goalkeeper Katie Florence made 10 saves in the contest, but was outplayed by BU’s Rachel Klein, who made eight saves to earn the win.

The Terriers continued the pattern of the Minutewomen playing opponents in their season openers, and Harvard will be no different, as it will be the fifth- straight team to fall into that category.

Last year, the Crimson were 6-10 overall with a 2-5 record in the Ivy League. Junior Jess Halpern returns this season after a team-high 46 goals and 55 points in her sophomore year. Goalkeeper Kerry Clark also returns after starting 14 games in cage last season, while posting a 12.95 goals against average and a .385 save percentage.

Where Harvard struggled last season was getting off to a good start rather than playing from behind. The Crimson were outscored 105-79 by their opponents in the first half last season, but fared better in the second half, being outscored 89-86.

UMass, however, isn’t the type of team to exploit Harvard’s inability to keep opponents off the board in the beginning of the game. The Minutewomen play better in the second half as well, while being outscored 25-20 in the first half.

Last season, the Crimson won four of their six games on the road and held only a 2-5 record at home. Harvard’s only two-game winning streak of the year came in the final two games against Cornell and Boston College on the road.

One of the losses the Crimson suffered at home last season was against UMass on Feb. 28, nearly a year ago. After dropping three games in a row, the Minutewomen finally got their first win on the year against Harvard in a closely-contested 13-12 victory.

Lyons led the scoring attack for UMass, having a career-day with six goals, including the game-winner with two minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the second half. Halpern sparked the Crimson with three goals for the hat trick.

The Minutewomen hung on for the win behind Florence’s career-high 18 saves, the biggest one coming in the final two minutes in a final attempt by the Crimson to tie the game.

UMass will look for a similar result this weekend with the game set to begin at 1 p.m. in a Saturday matinee.

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

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