Big second half surge pushes UMass into A-10 championship game

By Patrick Strohecker

If the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team was going to play for its fifth straight Atlantic 10 championship, it would have to overcome a major obstacle right from the start.

Stephen Hewitt/Collegian

Conference Player of the Year Katie Ferris was out of the starting lineup due to illness and was sidelined throughout much of Friday’s A-10 semifinal against George Washington. But the Minutewomen (16-2, 8-0 A-10) hung on, using an early scoring surge in the second half to pull away from the Colonials (9-8, 4-4 A-10) with a 13-5 victory.

UMass moves on to Sunday’s A-10 title game in hopes for its fifth straight conference championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament when it plays Duquesne at 1 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium.

“I mean, it’s a great experience,” junior Sam Rush said. “We really came out here and really wanted it, so I think that’s why we came out in the second half and played so much better because we just realized we’re not ready to end our season yet.”

As for Ferris, she said her status is uncertain for Sunday’s game, but she’s managing it accordingly. She added that she was frustrated that she couldn’t play more Friday, but was pleased with her team’s ability to step up.

“You want them to be able to perform like that and it’s great that we’re in the most important part of our season and they can go out there and do what they did today,” Ferris said.

Entering halftime with a mere one-goal lead, UMass coach Angela McMahon tried to spark her players by telling them they had to play better. The Minutewomen responded with a 6-0 scoring run to open up an 11-4 lead 12 minutes, 15 seconds into the second half.

“I just said we needed more intensity,” McMahon said. “We needed to get fired up, excited. I thought our energy was a little flat and it was the whole team.”

In the first meeting this season, George Washington mounted a furious comeback in the second half to erase a four-goal UMass lead before coming up just short. The Minutewomen were not going to let that be the case on Friday, however.

“We just wanted to really focus on coming out in the second half with more energy than we did in the first half and to just go above and beyond and have more energy than GW,” senior Cori Murray said.

With Ferris playing a limited role, players like Murray and Rush were forced to step up and fill the void that Ferris left behind. Both players responded, combining for five goals and eight points.

“That’s happened all year, whether teams are marked up on (Ferris) or face-guarding her, whatever it might be,” McMahon said. “So we’ve always relied on having a spread offense, whether it’s our low attackers or middies stepping up and that’s what we were looking for at halftime. We said, ‘Somebody has to step up and take control’ and a lot of people responded to that.”

On top of Murray and Rush’s strong performances, UMass also received three-point games from Melissa Carelli, Tanner Guarino and Lauren Terracciano.

Now the Minutewomen must quickly put the win behind them and prepare for Sunday’s championship game with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

“The whole year we’ve tried to focus on ourselves as opposed to our opponents,” McMahon said. “But it’s up to us and making sure that we’re coming out on Sunday with that energy and intensity that we lacked in the first half (Friday).”

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.