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May 8, 2017

Lack of scoring causing problems for UMass

For the third straight game, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team was held to under 10 goals. In all three cases, scoring under 10 goals resulted in a loss.

Despite getting off to an early 5-2 lead in the first 10 minutes of the contest,  UMass couldn’t play consistently, scoring three more goals the rest of the way.

New Hampshire, meanwhile, took advantage of a stagnant Minutewomen (2-4) offense and scored seven goals in the second half to earn the 11-8 win. The No. 19 Wildcats (3-0) kept the score close through halftime, trailing 6-4 after the intermission. In the second half, the UNH defense suffocated UMass’ offense, holding it to two goals.

UMass coach Alexis Venechanos wanted her team to get out to an early lead after failing to reach double-digits in goals the last two games. In those losses to Harvard and No. 11/12 Boston University, the Minutewomen trailed at halftime and fell short of closing the gap. Against the Wildcats, UMass was strong at first, but ended up fading in the second half.

“Teams are recognizing tendencies, and when people recognize tendencies, you have to either do something different, or do your thing very well,” Venechanos said after the loss to UNH. “I think the first couple games new faces on the team did their thing, but the better you do, the harder teams are going to come after you. We are getting hunted a little bit more than the past, when we were going after other teams.”

Where the Minutewomen hurt themselves the most in the loss was on free position shots. The Wildcats scored on four of their five opportunities while UMass was one for six. Though free position shots were pivotal against UNH, they weren’t indicative of the score in the last two losses, where UMass was better than its opponents, something Venechanos finds frustrating.

“We don’t have anything going on consistently or anything to bank on,” Venechanos said. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing.”

Despite the offense struggling, the Minutewomen defense has kept games close, allowing 10 goals twice, and 11 in the last three contests. Goalkeeper Katie Florence has allowed 10.68 goals per game while recording a .426 save percentage this season. During the three-game losing streak, Florence has stopped 25-of-51 total shots on goal.

“Our defense is doing well and they’re keeping us in the game,” Venechanos said. “We tell Katie to keep us in the game and she’s been doing that. We like where our defense is and I’d rather have a solid defense right now than a strong attack. We can always work on the attack, but on defense right now we’re doing a lot more reacting and saving the ball.”

Venechanos wasn’t pleased that her team dropped its third-straight, but would rather get the kinks worked out early in the spring.

“We’re trying to get prepared for the A-10 conference,” Venechanos said. “We’ve been able to play in these game and we’ll continue to learn from them until hopefully we see everything we need to see.”

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

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