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UMass falls in NCAA Play-In Game

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team came close, but ultimately fell a few goals short of competing for a national championship this season.

UMass suffered a loss at the hands of Stanford in the NCAA Play-In Game on Saturday afternoon at Cagan Stadium. Offense was on display as both teams found success on the attack, but the Minutewomen came out on the short end, falling 15-12.

UMass ends its season with a 10-10 overall record, while No. 15 Stanford improves to 15-5 overall and advances to meet James Madison in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

Senior Merritt Cosgrove put the Minutewomen on the board first, scoring a goal just one minute, 17 seconds into the contest. The Cardinal, however, responded with a pair of goals over the next five minutes. Stephanie Hopkins and Ali Houlis scored back-to-back free-position goals to reclaim the lead before Houlis scored again to put UMass up 4-2.

Both teams traded goals as Jesse O’Donnell scored with 10:33 remaining in the half to make it 6-6. The goal extended O’Donnell’s scoring streak to 21 consecutive games.

From there, Stanford closed out the period strong, taking a 11-8 lead into halftime with scoring coming from Claire Hubbard, Lauren Schmidt, and Sarah Flynn.

“Going into halftime, having them score 11 goals in a half is something we’re not accustomed to,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said to UMass Athletics after the game. “I thought we did a good job at halftime making adjustments, and I thought that second half was even.”

The Cardinal increased their lead to begin the second period, scoring three of the first four goals. Haley Smith and Jackie Lyons brought UMass back within three on consecutive goals to make it 14-11. Lyons scored again with 7:27 remaining in the game to make it 15-12, marking the final goal of the game and the season for the Minutewomen.

Down the stretch, UMass failed to amass a comeback despite several chances. Stanford controlled the possession and ran out the clock in the final moments to claim the victory.

In cage, Katie Florence made 11 saves, including eight in the first half, in a losing effort for the Minutewomen. Annie Read secured the win for the Cardinal, making six saves in the contest.

Stanford held a 35-to-23 shot advantage, including 25-to-12 in the first half. UMass committed 20 turnovers while forcing the Cardinal into only 11. The game was physical with 57 combined fouls whistled, including 35 on Stanford.

“You have to adjust to the style of play of the opponent you’re playing against,” Venechanos said. “I felt that some of the turnovers we had, ironically, were from mental lapses rather than physical.”

Cosgrove and Lyons each scored three goals to lead the UMass attack, while Flynn led all scorers with five goals for Stanford. Lyons’ first goal of the game gave her 100 for her career and Cosgrove finished as the all-time games started leader making her 74th career start.

Despite the season-ending loss, Venechanos recognized that her team played hard right until the very end.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Venechanos said. “The whole year, and even during this game we had some adversity. I thought we fought and we had different people step up, but we just ran out of time at the end of the game.”

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

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