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January 13, 2017

No. 11 UMass women’s lacrosse dominates Saint Joseph’s at home

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

In the No. 11 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team’s previous two games against Northwestern and LaSalle, it found itself facing early deficits early on.

On Sunday, the Minutewomen reversed the switch as they established a lead less than one minute into the game and never looked back, cruising past Saint Joseph’s 18-2 at McGuirk Stadium on Sunday.

UMass (11-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) opened up the game with a 7-0 run behind three goals by Katie Ferris, two goals by Melissa Carelli and goals by Erika Eipp and Sam Rush. The Hawks (3-8, 0-2 A-10) scored for the first time on a free position goal by Kelly Phelan with five minutes, 35 seconds left in the first half.

“It was definitely important that we established momentum,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “I think we did really well in getting the ball initially off the draw so we could have the opportunities to score.”

Following Phelan’s goal, the Minutewomen embarked on another run, scoring 10 consecutive goals open up a 17-1 lead with 9:26 left in the game.

After the game, McMahon said that ball possession was key to UMass’s offensive success. The Minutewomen won the battle in ground balls (18-12), draw controls (16-6) and forced turnovers (21-16), which helped UMass outshoot Saint Joseph’s 31-8.

“It’s great when you don’t have to play a lot of defense,” McMahon said. “Even when we missed a shot or had a turnover, we were getting the ball back and getting opportunities to go towards the cage.”

However, whenever the Hawks did move the ball past the Minutewomen’s first line of defense, McMahon said that junior goalkeeper Rachel Vallarelli was “steady” in stopping Saint Joseph’s scoring chances.

Vallarelli made two saves and gave up one goal in 40 minutes of play before being rested with a 14-1 UMass lead in the second half.

“I was just trying to focus on all the little things and what I needed to do like working on my communication,” Vallarelli said. “I knew that if I communicated more, my defense would be able to do what they needed to do.”

Ferris added to her list of career accolades with 28:18 left in the second half as she became the program’s all-time assists leader.

Already the holder of the most career points and goals in school history, Ferris recorded her record-breaking 107th career assist on a goal by Rush. Ferris said that the record was special because it shows her evolution as a player.

“That was (a record) that I really wanted to get because in my freshman year I didn’t really assist. I would just score,” said Ferris, who finished with four goals and three assists. “That was something that I had to learn to become a better player.”

Like Vallarelli, Ferris and the majority of the Minutewomen’s starters were also given a rest midway through the second half in favor of younger players in a lopsided affair.

Among these players were sophomore midfielder Nicole Troost, freshman midfielder Hannah Murphy, freshman attacker Callie Santos and freshman goalkeeper Leigh Henjes.

Troost, Murphy and Santos each finished with a goal within the final 12 minutes, and Troost also chipped in with an assist. Henjes replaced Vallarelli in net and finished with one save and one goal allowed in 20 minutes.

“It’s not just getting them opportunities, but it’s them having success with those opportunities,” McMahon said. “We want to build confidence and momentum so that players feel comfortable out there when they have opportunities.”

Ferris said that she “loves” when the younger players receive extended playing time and she believes that it will help UMass in future games.

“It’s awesome because when we get them into tougher games, we’re going to need them to be confident,” Ferris said. “We can’t have them go in nervous.”

After a four-game homestand, the Minutewomen will hit the road for their next game as they travel to George Washington on Friday for a 4 p.m. matchup.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at achiusano@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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