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December 28, 2016

Minutewomen look to end home skid against UNH

P.J. Stanley / Collegian

P.J. Stanley / Collegian

Yet to earn a win in its four-game home stand, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will attempt to break its losing streak when it hosts New Hampshire at McGuirk Stadium this afternoon.

After winning its home opener against Holy Cross, UMass has had difficulty claiming a victory in Amherst in its last two home games. The Minutewomen (2-3) are coming off two losses in the past week to Harvard and No. 10/11 Boston University, both ending in a 10-8 score.

“Protecting your home field is really vital,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said after Tuesday’s practice. “The girls understand that the games are adding up and we’re already through a third of our season. They are excited to play on their home field and sleep in their own beds, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Like the contest against the Terriers (1-0), UMass came up on the short end of a back and forth affair with the Crimson (1-0). Alexis Dal Col and Jen VanderMeulen combined for nine of Harvard’s 10 goals to lead the offensive attack for the Crimson.

For the Minutewomen, senior Merritt Cosgrove and junior Haley Smith each tallied two goals apiece. Nina Sarcona, Dayna Defliese, Ryan Gorman and Jesse O’Donnell, the leading scorer for UMass this season, all added goals on the day to round out the Minutewomen attack.

Goalkeeper Katherine Martino made seven saves to earn the win for Harvard, while Katie Florence made seven saves in cage in a losing effort.

Though the Minutewomen held a 24-to-22 shot advantage, the Crimson controlled the groundball battle, 16-to-9. Harvard was also a perfect 10-for-10 in clearing attempts, whereas UMass managed just 9-for-14 on clears.

In practices this week, Venechanos worked with her team on situations at the end of games.

“We just got back to the basics,” Venechanos said. “We’re looking forward to a new beginning tomorrow, and when you have these close games, the little things really matter. We want to work on throwing and catching, things you learn when you’re younger and having them in our back pocket at the end of close games.”

UNH, meanwhile, enters McGuirk having won both its games this season. The matchup against the Minutewomen, however, will be the first road test for the Wildcats.

In its last win against No. 16 Dartmouth, UNH received three goals and two assists from Jo Jo Curro to defeat the Big Green, 9-8. The victory ended the Wildcats’ 15-game losing streak against Dartmouth dating back to 1991.

Despite allowing the Big Green to close the gap to one score in the final minutes of the game, UNH was able to hold on and control the possession long enough for time to expire.

Last season, the Wildcats played better at home than on the road with five of their 12 wins coming on the road. One of the six wins at home for UNH came against UMass on Mar. 18, nearly a year ago.

After trailing 8-3 at halftime, the then-No. 13 ranked Wildcats scored 10 goals in the second half to defeat the upset-minded Minutewomen, 13-10.

Venechanos sees a lot of similarities between her team and UNH, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

“The play a really good team defense with either a zone or man to man,” Venechanos said. “They have a balanced attack like us and will be hard to stop, so we will need a team effort on defense. They also have some good dodgers up top and some good shooters down low to get them the ball.”

The game between the Minutewomen and Wildcats is set to begin this afternoon at 3 p.m.

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

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