March 3, 2015

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Minutewomen cap perfect A-10 season with win over Hawks

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team concluded its regular undefeated Atlantic 10 season schedule by traveling to Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia and winning, 18-4. The win not only added an exclamation point to an already impressive season, but it also kept the Minutewomen undefeated in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Already having locked up the No. 1 seed in the A-10 tournament, the win over Saint Joseph’s was a testament to the staying power and will to win by all players on the UMass team.

UMass head Coach Angela McMahon has been talking all year about playing as a unit and taking things one game at a time, and by doing so the team would put themselves in the best position to win.

“We approached Saint Joseph’s with the same mindset we always come prepared with, and that is to just win the game,” said McMahon.

Even though their final regular season game at Saint Joseph’s carried no added weight because of the lack of tournament implications, the Minutewomen did not come out stagnant, instead coming out ready to play and, more importantly, ready to win. The Minutewomen opened the game against SJU by scoring first and scoring often. Their first three goals were scored in just a little over seven minutes of game time, and the Minutewomen would continue to pressure the Hawks. Saint Joseph’s scored only one goal in the first half, while the Minutewomen tallied 12, giving them a huge advantage going into halftime.

Just over two minutes into the second half, junior Ali Houlis scored the Minutewomen’s 13th goal of the game and increased a large deficit already facing the Hawks, who would only score three more goals in the course of the game.

The Minutewomen once again won almost every statistical category possible including shots-on-goal, saves, ground balls, draw controls, clears and free-position shots. Since the beginning of the season, the Minutewomen have been a very dominant team on the attacking side of the ball. However, in the last month of the season the defense has really stepped up its game and has been anchoring many UMass victories. In the final three games of the season, the Minutewomen defeated George Washington, Richmond and the Hawks. In those three victories, the Minutewomen defense let up a total of 14 goals, while the offense scored 53, giving them a plus 39 advantage in goals scored and goals surrendered.

“Our defensive play has really turned around during the course of this season, and that is a huge testament to our players and our core defensive players back there, but it is also a testament to our assistant coaches Sarah Albrecht and Eileen Finn who kind of run the defensive side of things,” McMahon said.

Even though the defense and the play in net have both been very strong over the course of the season, it has elevated the team to a new level in recent games. Since the Minutewomen have such young team, these regular season experiences could prove invaluable for how the team fairs as a whole during the A-10 tournament and the NCAA tournament. McMahon pointed out the cliché phrase that defense wins championships, and she believes that the team is going to have to rely on the defense to help win games come the A-10 tournament.

“The cohesiveness is huge, they [defense] are working really hard together, they are communicating, and definitely stepping up,” said McMahon. “The girls are faced with a lot of different opponents, so we have different game plans for everybody, and they are starting to see and understand the game a lot better.”

The next time the UMass women’s lacrosse team will step onto the field will be for the opening round of the A-10 tournament on Friday.

“We are coming into the tournament with the same approach we have been using all year, but with more of a sense of urgency because it is one and done, and we have to make sure that we are taking care of business and playing to our capability,” said McMahon.

Nicholas Bellofatto can be reached at nbellofa@student.umass.edu.

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