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January 13, 2017

No. 11 UMass women’s lacrosse gets hard-fought win over Richmond

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Since the start of Atlantic 10 play, the No. 11 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has been nothing short of dominant, winning its first four games by an average margin of almost 15 goals.

But on Saturday, the Minutewomen faced their tough challenge against Richmond, barely squeaking by with a 9-8 victory to keep their undefeated conference record alive.

After a back-and-forth first half that ended with the score tied at three apiece, the Spiders (9-5, 4-1 A-10) scored three quick unanswered goals and put UMass (14-1, 5-0) in a hole.

But the Minutewomen responded with a 4-0 run of their own to come back and take the lead. UMass coach Angela McMahon credited the comeback to strong play on the draw.

“We won a couple draws and then we were able to not only win the draw but go right down off of the draw and score,” she said.

The Minutewomen finished with a 13-7 advantage over Richmond on the draw, including a 9-3 advantage in the second half. The team was led by freshman Hannah Murphy, who hauled in seven draw controls on the day.

“(Murphy) played confident, she placed the ball where she needed to in order for our team to come up with it,” McMahon said. “You would never know, watching her out there, that she’s just a freshman.”

Murphy, typically a player who comes off the bench later in the game, took over early on for the team’s primary draw specialist, Kelsey McGovern. McMahon said she put Murphy in thinking she might match up better against the Spiders’ draw specialists.

“Kelsey took the first couple and then we made a switch just based on how we thought we might have an advantage against their draw takers,” she said. “So, based on how it was going, we just decided to make a switch and luckily it paid off.”

After UMass made its comeback, the two teams went back and forth for the rest of the game, but the Minutewomen got the final goal when Sam Rush scored with 3:27 left, and UMass held on for the final minutes.

“Even at the very end there, we really didn’t make it much easier on ourselves,” McMahon said. “We turned the ball over with like 15, 20 seconds left and eventually gave up a pretty point-blank shot right as time was expiring, and (goalkeeper) Rachel (Vallarelli) came up with a clutch, key save, and we were able to run out the clock from there.”

Rush led the Minutewomen offensively with three goals. Erika Eipp and Melissa Carelli added two goals each, and Vallarelli finished with six saves to get the win.

Despite UMass holding a 23-16 shot advantage in the game, Richmond kept things close thanks to strong play from goalkeeper Emily Boyce, who finished with 10 saves.

“(Boyce) played great early on,” she said. “She made some huge saves on us, especially in the first half.”

McMahon said after running away with so many easy victories, she was glad to see her team win such a close game.

“I’m really proud of the resiliency our team showed with being able to battle back from being down,” she said. “It was a tough road trip, it was (Richmond’s) Senior Day, they sort of had a lot of the momentum going in their favor.

“It was great to come away with the win because they’re a great opponent, they really have done a great job this season.”

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at jmayfiel@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88.

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