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No. 16 UMass women’s lacrosse opens 2017 season with 18-10 home loss against No. 17 Boston College

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Last year, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team lost only one game in the regular season, a 9-8 heartbreaker at the hands of Boston College in Chestnut Hill.

This time was a bit less heartbreaking for the Minutewomen, but just as disappointing.

No. 16 UMass’ 2017 season opened with an 18-10 loss against the 17th-ranked Eagles at Garber Field Wednesday afternoon. The in-state rivalry game was controlled by the Eagles and star senior attacker Kate Weeks, who netted eight goals.

It was the Minutewomen’s first home loss since the 2014 season.

BC (1-0) got the scoring started just two minutes, 18 seconds into the game when Weeks sent one past freshman goalkeeper Lauren Hiller. Weeks wasted no time picking up where she left off in the Eagles’ 19-8 victory over Holy Cross, in which she found the back of the net five times.

Hiller, who started over two returning goalkeepers, looked good early on but was eventually victimized by the quick cuts and low shots of the Eagles attackers. Still Minutewomen coach Angela McMahon had high praise for her first-year goalkeeper.

“She got off to a great start, and I think she did a great job initiating our offense,” McMahon said. “She ignited our entire team. Everyone was behind her and supporting her, and she made some key saves that allowed us to take our short-lived lead.”

After a few empty possessions and early turnovers, UMass scored four unanswered goals over an eight-minute period. Two goals from senior midfielder Holly Turner and a goal each for midfielder Hannah Murphy and sophomore attacker Hannah Palau gave UMass a 4-1 lead with 17:14 left in the first half.

The Eagles soon went on a run of their own, scoring five unanswered goals to lead 6-4 at halftime. UMass had 19 first-half fouls to go along with 11 turnovers, giving BC plenty of chances to score early.

Coming out of halftime, Weeks scored back-to-back goals to continue the Eagles run. It wasn’t until Turner completed her hat-trick four minutes into the second half that the Minutewomen ended a 17-minute scoring drought.

However, this failed to spark a UMass run, as the Eagles scored four goals in the next five minutes to take a demanding 12-5 lead with 21:44 to play.

The Eagles outscored UMass 6-5 in the remaining minutes, with Weeks scoring once more in the final 30 seconds to seal the 18-10 victory.

UMass graduated four senior defenders, including talented starters Amber Tobin along with Anne and Kate Farnham. Their absence was noted, as the experience of the BC attackers, led by Weeks, freed up the front of the net for scorers.

“I think our defense did a pretty good job, but I would have liked to contain number 24 [Weeks] because she got really hot,” McMahon said. “We tried to put a focus on her, but when you’re playing catch-up, you’re going to have some holes defensively. We were really exposed because we were trying to attack a little bit more, but you know, a loss is a loss.”

The Eagles manage to stop the Minutewomen from controlling the draw game, something most of UMass’ opponents fail to do. The Eagles won 22 draws to just eight for UMass.

The Minutewomen are off until Feb. 17, when they travel to Florida to play the Colorado Buffaloes and the Jacksonville Dolphins over a three-day span.

Henry Brechter can be reached at hbrechter@umass.edu, and followed on Twitter @HBrechter.

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