The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team hadn’t reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 29 years, and a 90-minute rain delay at Penn State Lacrosse Field wouldn’t prevent it from ending that drought on Friday night.
After thunderstorms interrupted play midway through the first half, the Minutewomen (18-2) came out of the delay strong, controlling play the majority of the night to defeat Connecticut, 14-10, and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1984.
UMass will take on host team Penn State in Sunday’s second round game at 1 p.m.
“I’m thrilled and just really proud of the girls,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “It’s sort of a monkey off our back a little bit. Each year we’ve been getting closer and closer to winning that game and to finally put it away is a huge relief, but it’s also a huge confidence builder for us, you know, that we can not only compete with the top teams in the country, but beat them.”
The Huskies (13-5) tied the game at 3-3 immediately following the weather delay, but UMass responded with four consecutive goals to take a commanding lead that it would never relinquish.
“I think it was huge and it was a testament to our team to how much we wanted to win this game and how important it was to them,” McMahon said of her team’s effort following the delay. “Not only were they working really hard, but they were playing very smart. They were making good decisions, they were executing and it just shows how much our team has grown throughout the whole season.”
Trailing 8-4 at halftime, the Huskies got the second half out to a fast start, slicing the Minutewomen’s advantage in half with a pair of goals.
That would be the closest UConn would get, however, as UMass answered back with two of its own. The two teams traded goals the rest of the way.
Katie Ferris and Sam Rush, the Minutewomen’s top two scorers during the regular season, led the way offensively with four goals apiece in the win.
But, it was Kelsey McGovern who provided the biggest spark to the team, playing through a knee injury that she suffered in the last weekend of the regular season.
“It’s one of the gutsiest performances of any game I’ve ever been a part of,” McMahon said of McGovern. “It just shows what a team player she is.”
McGovern, who was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week three times this season for her work on draw controls, was unable to run without limping. But, it was her ability to take faceoffs and win them that allowed the Minutewomen to maintain possession much of the contest and get into an offensive groove.
“For her to do what she did for her team tonight directly correlated into us winning because we had more possession of the ball and we were able to put the ball in the back of the net,” McMahon said.
With a first round victory out of the way, UMass now shifts its focus to Sunday’s second round matchup against Penn State (13-6), which defeated Cansius 14-13 earlier Friday evening.
Despite not playing Penn State during the regular season, McMahon knows what her team is up against come Sunday.
“They have very dynamic players on attack,” McMahon said. “A lot of different weapons. I think they have like three or four players who have 40 or 50 points on the season. I would say in that aspect I think they’re very similar in the balance of their team, with a very stingy defense and a very dynamic attack.”
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.