UMass opens A-10 schedule with pair of wins

By Jay Asser

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Jeff Bernstein / Collegian

The opening of its Atlantic 10 schedule was just what the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team needed to break free of its recent struggles.

After dropping five of their last six games, the Minutewomen (5-6, 2-0 A-10) swept conference foes Richmond and George Washington over the weekend to pick up their first wins in their current six-game road stint.

“We’re happy about two wins in a conference that, from top to bottom, is very tough,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said after Sunday’s win.

UMass holds a 15-8 record in the conference under Venechanos and is 8-1 in its last nine regular season A-10 contests.

On Sunday afternoon, UMass received scoring efforts from eight different players to earn the 12-8 victory, its first ever at Richmond since the series began in 2002.

Jesse O’Donnell began the scoring for the Minutewomen just 45 seconds into the game with her team-leading 24th goal. Nearly 10 minutes later, Nina Sarcona extended the UMass lead to two with one of her three scores on the day.

The two teams exchanged goals the rest of the half as Sam Tajirian and Anne Ryan each tallied a score for the Spiders with less than four minutes remaining to decrease the deficit to two. With one minute, 36 seconds left before the break, O’Donnell put in her second score of the contest to give the Minutewomen a 7-4 lead heading into halftime.

To begin the second half, Richmond scored a pair of goals to close the gap to one before UMass scored four straight to put the game out of reach. Gabi Wiegand stopped the run with a goal for the Spiders, but Merritt Cosgrove pushed the lead back to five with 4:42 to play.

Danielle Schaevitz scored the final goal for Richmond with just under two minutes remaining and won the ensuing draw control, looking to score again. The Minutewomen defense, however, regained possession and cleared the ball to run out the final seconds of the game.

Leading the UMass attack was Sarcona, who poured in three goals on the day for her second hat trick of the season and her career. O’Donnell and Cosgrove each added two scores, while Danielle Pelletier and Jackie Lyons both had three-point games with a goal and two assists.

It was much of the same on the previous day as the Minutewomen claimed a 13-7 victory over George Washington (2-9, 0-2 A-10). After back-and-forth scoring resulted in UMass trailing at the intermission, the Minutewomen outscored the Colonials 8-1 in the second half.

GWU pulled ahead in the first half with goals from Nicole Lacey and Sarah Phillips to take the 6-4 lead. After O’Donnell put in her second goal of the contest to make it a one-score game with 6:15 remaining, scoring subsided for the rest of the half.

O’Donnell completed the hat trick nearly three minutes into the second half to tie the game before Pelletier scored 31 seconds later to give UMass a 7-6 lead. The Colonials tied the game with a goal from Megan Seidman, but failed to score for the remaining 24:54 of the contest.

Meanwhile, the Minutewomen scored six unanswered goals, including two from both Lyons and Ali Houlis to close out the win. Down the stretch, the UMass defense forced seven GWU turnovers and was able to hold the Colonials to just four shots in the final 20 minutes.

“We talked about playing together and I thought our attack played really well in that they took shots we wanted,” Venechanos said.

UMass will continue its conference schedule next Saturday when it travels to face Temple in an afternoon matinee.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]