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UMass women’s lacrosse beats St. Joe’s, advance to Atlantic 10 championship game

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Ranked No. 16 nationally and the top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team began its quest to capture an eighth straight A-10 title Friday against Saint Joseph’s.

UMass (17-1, 10-0 A-10) faced a tough matchup in the fourth-seeded Hawks (8-3, 9-10), but took care of business in its 13-8 victory to move into Sunday’s championship game.

“They came out firing and they were really gritty and aggressive,” Minutewomen coach Angela McMahon said. “They definitely gave us a really tough and competitive game.”

UMass handled its business with St. Joe’s earlier in the season on the road in a 15-5 victory where UMass out shot the Hawks 29-17, with the benefit of senior attacker Nicole Troost’s five goals.

This time, on a neutral field, the Minutewomen stuck to their usual trend with six different players combing for the 13 goals scored.

Senior leaders of a team usually define the postseason and that was no different for the Minutewomen as senior attacker Erika Eipp led the team with six points (three goals and three assists).

Eipp’s performance elevated UMass in the early stages of the game when it was largely a back-and-fourth affair.

“Her senior leadership is huge,” McMaohon said. “Eipp is cool, calm and collected with the ball in her hands and hopefully we can feed off that moving forward.”

Midfielder Hannah Murphy – who also had a big performance with three goals, two assists and eight draw controls – opened the scoring just 11 seconds into the game.

Murphy would ultimately account for half of the draw controls for UMass, as the Minutewomen would dominate this area of the game 16-6, but struggled to pull away despite this disparity in possession.

“It’s definitely an area we can improve on for Sunday,” McMahon said. “When we have the ball as much as we did we really need to convert more.”

Following the opening goal, Eipp either scored or assisted on each of the next three goals scored by UMass, but it could not pull away early as St. Joe’s had an answer for each goal before the Minutewomen took a 4-3 lead with 10:16 remaining in the half. They never trailed again for the remainder of the afternoon.

A goal by the Hawks’ Aly Gormley at the 2:22 mark closed the scoring for the half as teams hit the locker room with the score 7-4.

The second half proved to be more of the same back-and-fourth scoring, with UMass’ Hannah Burnett scoring the first goal – her second of two in the game – 80 seconds into frame.

The teams would continue to trade goals, with neither team creating a scoring run of more than two goals. The Minutewomen’s quick, four-goal run in the first half proved to be the difference in the end. St. Joe’s scored the final goal with just two seconds left in regulation and didn’t give in until the final whistle.

Friday’s win sets up a rematch between the top and bottom seeds in the tournament Sunday for the championship.  The sixth-seeded Richmond Spiders have won four straight since their loss to UMass on April 22. The opening draw is set for noon.

“Richmond is tough,” McMahon said. “They’ve been on a run since we last played them and we really need Sunday to be our best game of the season.”

Nicholas Souza can be reached at njsouza@umass.edu.

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