Pair of weekend wins clinch undefeated A-10 season

By Jeffrey Okerman

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

With the No. 1 playoff seed in hand, the No. 9 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team had one more regular season goal: going undefeated in Atlantic 10 conference play.

UMass (16-1, 7-0 A-10) spoiled Temple’s Senior Day celebrations by accomplishing its mission, beating the Owls (9-8, 3-4 A-10), 13-7, on their turf. The win also spoiled any playoff hopes TU had, as it fell behind George Washington, which holds the final spot in the standings,.

The Minutwomen were again without Katie Ferris, as the coaching staff opted to rest their leading attack option rather than risk further exacerbating her injury, which UMass coach Angela McMahon didn’t disclose the details of.

Nina Sarcona started the day off strong for UMass, scoring 45 seconds into the contest.

The Owls responded five minutes later when Kelsey Zenuk beat Katie Florence  to even the game.

Jesse O’Donnell took control after that. At 23:42, the senior attacker unleashed her first strike off a Lauren Terracciano helper. However, the next three would be of O’Donnell’s own invention.

O’Donnell notched her second tally of the game at the 17:47 mark, and 19 seconds later she added a third for the hat trick. O’Donnell then made it four on the afternoon with a free-position goal at 13:10. Eight seconds later, O’Donnell got teammate Tanner Guarino involved, finding the sophomore to make it 6-1.

Sam Rush added a pair before halftime to reach the 30-goal mark on the season. Charlotte Swavola fired one in for TU, but Danielle Pelletier cancelled the goal out with one of her own with seven seconds remaining, sending the game to halftime with UMass leading 9-2.

The Minutewomen came out firing to open the second half. Goals from Ali Houlis and Ellie Bullitt preceded another O’Donnell strike, which put UMass up by 10 with 23:53 left to play.

A late four-goal surge from the Owls would prove to be too little too late. Jackie Mercer brought the game back to 12-3,, but O’Donnell responded with her sixth goal of the day.

Jaymie Tabor, Mercer, Missy Schweitzer and Karly Cohen then all registered goals to make it 13-7, but when time expired the Owls remained six goals short of the upset they needed to be eligible to move on to postseason play.

Minutewomen clinch top seed

Coming into the penultimate game of the season, the Minutewomen needed a win to secure the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. As it turned out, they accomplished that in decisive fashion.

When the dust cleared, UMass had effectively dismantled visiting La Salle, 20-7, all while missing Ferris. McMahon was pleased with her team’s ability to convert chances into goals without their leading attacker.

“I thought we did a great job of dominating time of possession,” said McMahon. “Winning the draws, causing some turnovers … we did a great job of executing on attack, did all the little things.”

The Explorers (10-6, 3-4 A-10) got out ahead early when Caitlyn Brostrand converted a free-position opportunity just 42 seconds after the opening draw.

However, from that moment on it was all UMass.

A run of 16-straight goals began with O’Donnell, who scored after spinning off her defender to make room for a shot. Cori Murray then put the Minutewomen in front for good.

Rush’s first goal off the bench began a slew of goals over a 2:30 stretch. Terracciano netted two scores before Guarino provided her only assist to Sarcona to make it 6-1.

With 16:28 left in the first half, O’Donnell scored her 30th goal of the season and the Minutewomen’s seventh goal of the game.

As the half drifted below the 10-minute mark, UMass was well in control at 9-1, but three-straight Terracciano-assisted goals put icing on the cake. O’Donnell was the first beneficiary of Terracciano’s keen passing, firing a shot over her shoulder to beat the Explorers’ netminder. Sarcona was then free to complete her hat trick before Rush added her second.

With the game out of reach from the Explorers, both teams switched out goalies as the half concluded. The change had a negligible effect, if any.

When the game restarted after the break, Sarcona and Murray finished off the 16-goal run. Sarcona benefited from Pelletier’s free-position opportunity, while a strong move from Murray allowed her to finish with ease.

After 37 minutes of goal-less play, the Explorers finally scored, as Alanna Diffendal broke the freeze, but the contest was already well out of hand.

UMass will now move on to the A-10 tournament this weekend. The four-team tournament, played in Richmond, Va., begins Friday and concludes Sunday for the championship game.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.