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Lack of draw controls prove too costly in Minutewomen’s loss

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Week after week, Massachusetts women’s lacrosse coach Angela McMahon implores her team to first and foremost control draws, a message received until last weekend’s game against Northwestern, when the Wildcats completely dominated that area of the game.

On Saturday night, No. 2 Northwestern took down the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team, 17-7. The obvious difference in the game was the draw control battle, which the Wildcats won, 24-2.

In the first half, Northwestern had 11 draw controls to UMass’ two, and the dominance carried over to the second half, as the Wildcats held a 13-0 advantage over the Minutewomen.

The 24 draw controls were the second-highest total of the season for Northwestern. Conversely, the Minutewomen’s two draw controls were a season-low. The Wildcats dictated the pace from the outset, as they controlled the opening draw before racing into UMass territory, where Kelly Rich scored the first goal just 18 seconds into the contest.

Both teams rotated different players in to take faceoffs. The strategy worked for Northwestern, which had 10 different players win at least one draw control. UMass instituted the same strategy, but was far from successful, as Ali Houlis and Dayna Defliese managed just one draw control win each. 

“We tried a bunch of different things, and [it] just didn’t work out,” said McMahon. “But at the same time, the ball was bobbling around a little bit [and] we didn’t get those ground balls and we had those opportunities in the circle.”

The Minutewomen have prided themselves on being a team that often wins the battle of the draw controls. Before the Northwestern game, UMass was controlling 59 percent of their faceoffs.     

“We’ve had a lot of success on [faceoffs] on our end in our previous games, but they are the best team in the country when it comes to draw controls,” said McMahon.

McMahon was spot on with that statistic. The Wildcats lead the nation in draw controls per game, with 17.78. Their 24 faceoff wins on Saturday night vaulted them past University of California, Davis for first place in the nation.

Northwestern used the large advantage in draw controls to slow down its offense and use up clock once it had a sizable lead. The Wildcats possessed the ball for the majority of the second half, and whenever it appeared UMass was making a run, the Wildcats used long, clock-killing possessions to lock up the victory.

Despite seeing constant pressure from a potent Northwestern offense that features the attacking combination of Shannon Smith and Erin Fitzgerald, the Minutewomen played a solid defensive game.

“Considering how much time they had the ball for and how much ball possession they had, I thought we did a great job defensively of making some really good holds and actually getting some turnovers, as well,” said McMahon.

Senior defender Nazy Kerr agreed with McMahon and was proud of the defensive effort.

“The score doesn’t accurately reflect how far we’ve come and how many strides we’ve made and how well we did on defense today,” said Kerr.   

Controlling the draws and possessing the ball for the majority of the game led to Northwestern winning other statistical comparisons. The Wildcats outshot the Minutewomen, 33-18, and UMass attempted 17 clears, a result of constant offensive pressure put on by NU.

Massachusetts has now lost two of their last three, and in both losses the opposition took the battle of the draw controls. McMahon hopes her team will improve in that area during practice this week before their upcoming game against Temple on April 1.

Jackson Alexander at jtalexan@student.umass.edu.

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