It took the No. 13 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team three halves to finally hit its stride and play the style of lacrosse it is capable of playing.
The Minutewomen (1-1) outscored Southern California 12-3 in the second half of Sunday’s game to pick up their first win of the season, 18-9, two days after dropping a one-sided loss to No. 2 Northwestern in Los Angeles.
UMass’ home opener is Saturday when it hosts Long Island University Brooklyn at 1 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium.
The Minutewomen struggled to find consistency early on against the Trojans (0-2) as they couldn’t break away in the first half and found themselves in a battle against the host team.
After opening up a 4-2 lead, UMass surrendered four straight goals late in the first half before Tanner Guarino and Katie Ferris netted two goals in the final one minute, 12 seconds to tie the game at 6-6 going into the halftime break.
But the Minutewomen opened the second half by scoring six of the first seven goals to gain a 12-7 advantage and didn’t look back.
“I think showing that we’re pretty resilient and coming from behind, especially in the second half, coming from behind, we really stepped up and started playing the way we’re capable of playing,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said in an interview with UMass Athletics following the game.
Ferris paced the Minutewomen attack in the win by recording six goals and three assists, but UMass had four other players record multiple-point games and had 11 players fill the score sheet.
The balanced attack is what stood out most to McMahon following the game.
“I think we just started moving, not only the ball, but ourselves as well and getting into good scoring positions,” McMahon said. “We started the game stagnant, standing, watching and you’re not making a defense work.
“So we started making the defenders work a little bit, moving, working together,” she continued, “and we had some really pretty assisted goals, so I’m happy the way they were able to make adjustments with that.”
Northwestern blows out UMass
In its season opener, UMass did not fair well in its game against then No. 2 Northwestern, losing handily, 16-4.
The Minutewomen fell behind right from the get-go, giving up the first goal only a minute and 10 seconds into the game. After the defense took over for the next 10 minutes of the first half, the Wildcats (2-0) continued to dominate UMass, outscoring the Minutewomen, 8-2, over the course of the final 16 minutes of the first half.
Trailing 9-2 heading into the second half, UMass didn’t gain any serious momentum, conceding the final five goals of the contest.
Sam Rush, Cori Murray, Lauren Terracciano and Guarino each had one goal in the game for UMass, while Kelly Rich led the Wildcats with four goals.
Northwestern also dominated in terms of shots, outshooting the Minutewomen, 33-12, and owned a 16-6 advantage on draw controls as well.
In goal, Rachel Vallarelli made 10 stops and finished the weekend with 18 saves in the two games. The sophomore – who is in her first year starting for UMass – earned the praise of her coach for her play over the weekend.
“Rachel played great,” McMahon said. “She’s a catalyst on our defense. She’s seeing the ball great and she’s making really good decisions on her clears too. I think that’s been a strong point that I’ve seen a huge improvement from all preseason.”
McMahon also feels Vallarelli is making strides as a leader.
“I’m really proud of her,” McMahon said. “She’s slowly developing into a key leader for us on the defensive end and we’re going to need her for the rest of the season.”
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.