Minutewomen storm back to win 2nd straight A-10 championship
The victory came from a back-and-forth showdown between top-seeded Richmond and third-seeded UMass, culminating in a last-second effort by the Minutewomen to secure a 12-10 victory over the Spiders.
With the win, UMass has secured itself a spot in the upcoming NCAA tournament play-in game against the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Champion. The date and opponent of the game will be determined at a later date.
As much as Richmond (10-8, 6-1 A-10) tried to down the Minutewomen, UMass continued to fight back in the opening half of the A-10 championship game.
The defending A-10 champion Minutewomen (9-8, 5-2 A-10) started off the game strong with a goal by midfielder Jackie Lyons. Despite a goal nearly three minutes later by Richmond’s high-scorer Mary Flowers, Lyons fought right back and scored her second goal of the contest after six minutes of play to secure a 2-1 lead for UMass.
The Minutewomen suffered following the goal, as the Spiders scored four-straight goals on the Maroon and White. Flowers scored her second, while attackers Gabi Wiegand, Danielle Schaevitz and midfielder Anne Ryan nabbed their first goals of the contest.
While the chances of an A-10 championship repeat might have seemed bleak for the Minutewomen, down 5-2 after 13 minutes of play, UMass kicked up its offense after the game was delayed 50 minutes because of lightning. Following the delay, the Minutewomen went on a three-goal run of its own to knot the game up at five goals apiece.
Lyons earned a hat trick during the run, scoring her third goal of the contest, followed by goals from midfielders Jesse O’Donnell and Danielle Pelletier.
The lead switched again with each team trading a score within the final 10 minutes of the first half. Ryan and O’Donnell both scored their second goals of the contest to push the score to 6-6 going into the halftime.
Both teams played a similar game in the first half, with both sides earning four saves and eight groundballs. The Minutewomen had the advantage in clears (8-9) and shots (18-11).
UMass shocked the Spiders’ 30 seconds into the second half, as goalkeeper Katie Florence tossed a pass to midfielder Merritt Cosgrove who netted the tiebreaking goal. The Minutewomen lead was cut short, as Wiegand nabbed her 48th goal of the season to lock up the game.
As hard as UMass tried to catch a break, Richmond kept the game a battle. After Lyons showed why she won A-10 Lacrosse Player of the Year with a goal to give the Minutewomen the 8-7 lead, Richmond’s Kara Moschetti erased the lead off a free position goal of her own.
Less than two minutes later, the two squads swapped goals again to bring the score to 9-9. Lyons earned her fifth goal of the contest off a free position to bring the lead back to the Maroon and White, but Ryan drowned that out off an unassisted goal.
UMass found a way to break the lead again after Lyons added another contribution to the affair with a solid assist to midfielder Dayna Defliese, who changed the lead to 10-9 with 13 minutes to go.
Just over five minutes passed before the next goal was scored, only this time it was not by Richmond as the pattern would suggest. Rather, Cosgrove fired back for the Minutewomen with an unassisted goal to give UMass its first lead of more than a single goal.
Lyons proved to be the helpful aid for UMass as the clock continued to dwindle, as she tossed a pass to attacker Nina Sarcona who nabbed a score for the Minutewomen to give them the 12-9 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Even though Wiegand scored a goal to bring the UMass lead down to two goals, it was not enough to spark the Richmond side, as UMass held on to secure the victory.
Despite the Minutewomen’s ability to push the lead forward and earn the win, both teams played a similar second half. Richmond outshot UMass (12-10), but the Minutewomen had the edge in saves (4-3), groundballs (10-7) and clears (8-5). Throughout the entire game, both teams swapped the lead between them on eight occasions.
This is also the second-straight A-10 tournament title for the Minutewomen, and their second in three straight final appearances.
Before the championship game, UMass faced off against La Salle on Friday in a rematch of last Sunday’s showdown, where the Explorers won on a last-second score. The Minutewomen did not let history repeat twice, as they finished off La Salle, 9-7.
“La Salle’s a really tough team,” Venechanos said. “I thought we did a great job to put ourselves in a position to do what we needed to do. We ran a lot of plays that we needed to play and score on.”
The early part of the match was similar to the regular-season finale, with both teams trading goals. A little over three minutes in, O’Donnell broke the silence between the two teams with a goal off a pass from Sarcona to give the Minutewomen an early lead. The lead was diminished after attacker Stefany McKee notched her 32nd goal of the year off of a free-position shot.
Cosgrove came right back with an unassisted goal four minutes later to revive the UMass lead, which was once again cut due to a similar score by midfielder Rachel Baker. With the game tied once more, La Salle pushed toward the Maroon and White net and earned its first lead of the contest from attacker Jill Davis’ 40th goal of the season.
The Minutewomen began a strong push once the clock read 18 minutes, as the squad went on a five-goal, eight-minute run, led by Lyons. Lyons handed off the ball to Pelletier who opened the run with a score to knot the game at three.
Continuing her streak of success, Lyons sent in three-straight goals on Explorer goalkeeper Megan Corliss. All three of Lyons’ goals came from different sets of plays, with the first being unassisted, the second off a free position and the third off an assist from fellow high-scorer, O’Donnell.
Pelletier, whose goal started the run, capped it off with a successful score off a ball from Sarcona to give the Minutewomen a 7-3 lead. Before the halftime break, La Salle got the final word with a score by midfielder Nora McGurkin.
The game against the Explorers last Sunday had been measured by the display of defense on both sides. In the early part of the second half, it was no different, as 10 minutes passed before a score. Midfielder Haley Smith took the ball to the cage herself to score the eighth UMass goal.
“Defensively, in that start of the second half, we held them, and they came back again, and we held them again,” Venechanos said. “I was really impressed in the last three minutes of the game, it was a little bit of a flashback of what happened on Sunday, but this time we were able to keep possession.”
Despite three scores, broken up by Pelletier’s third goal of the game, La Salle could not find the magic it used during last Sunday’s affair. The clock ran right down to the very last tick, and the Minutewomen earned their spot in the A-10 championship game.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.