UMass women’s lacrosse takes control in first half, hangs on against La Salle in Sunday win

By Andrew Cyr

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

For the first time in a while, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team had to look in its rear view mirror at its opponent deep into the second half.

Eileen McDonald scored a goal with seven minutes, 44 seconds remaining to put the Minutewomen (14-1, 6-0 Atlantic 10) ahead 14-5. Usually at this juncture of the game, they merge into the fast lane and easily coast to victory.

But La Salle then scored five goals over the next 3:16, cutting the lead to 14-9. And while neither team scored a goal following Katleyn Fay’s fifth on the day for the Explorers, Sunday’s game was enough of a scare for UMass and its ability to close out games, especially on the road.

“I wasn’t happy at all,” head coach Angela McMahon said about the final stretch of play. “We just got a little carless with the ball but (La Salle) played aggressive and really physical in the second half.”

She added: “I think we forced some things and made some bad decisions but they didn’t back down from us.

Callie Santos scored the first goal for the Minutewomen 27 seconds into the game in a first period where they scored 10 unanswered goals over the opening 16:01. Santos, who’s been a solid contributor on offense this season (15 goals, two assists), scored a career-high four goals Sunday.

McMahon preached that having players like Santos stepping up at this part of the season is critical heading into the conference tournament.

“La Salle has a really good goalkeeper and Callie did an excellent job of taking time on her shots and was really composed in her finishing,” McMahon said.

Katie Ott joined Santos with four goals on the afternoon, marking a career-high for her as well. Ott scored all of her goals in UMass’explosive first half.

The Explorers (7-7, 3-3 A-10) scored seven of their nine goals in the second half after only registering four shots on Minutewomen goalkeeper Rachel Vallarelli (six goals allowed, four saves) through the first 30 minutes of regulation. Along with Fay’s five goals, Allie Burnett recorded two tallies for La Salle while Alanna Diffendal and Rachel Ceplo each scored one apiece.

McMahon said that the biggest problem for the Minutewomen was their careless and costly turnovers. UMass had 18 turnovers Sunday, which was tied for a season-high. The Minutewomen saw an identical total in Friday’s win at Saint Joseph’s.

“We can’t have 18 turnovers in a game, that is way too many,” McMahon said. “We have to limit that and keep the momentum we gain in the first half. Credit La Salle for coming out fighting and putting us into those bad possessions, but I think that we have to recognize when the game is changing and being a little bit more poised and taking care of the ball.”

Erika Eipp led UMass with seven points coming on two goals and five assists. She recorded half of her points during the Minutewomen’s 10-0 run in the first half.

While Sunday’s game may not have looked that close on the final scoreboard, McMahon believes that this is the wakeup call UMass needed before heading into the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“We still have two conference games remaining and both of them are going to be really tough on us,” McMahon said. “We know that we have a target on our backs and we have to handle that pressure better.”

Sunday’s win marked the 34th consecutive victory in conference play and the 44th straight against A-10 opponents. The Minutewomen’s 34-game winning streak is tied with Penn State (2006-2011) for the third longest in history.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.