Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Defense, Eipp’s five goals lead UMass women’s lacrosse past Jacksonville in NCAA tournament

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The nation’s second best defensive unit carried the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team through another undefeated conference schedule this year and back into the NCAA tournament. In Friday’s first round matchup against Jacksonville, it was much of the same.

The Minutewomen limited Division I’s third-highest scoring team in the Dolphins (17-3, 7-0 Atlantic Sun) to their second lowest output of the season in a 13-8 victory in College Park, Maryland.

“They’re the backbone of our team,” UMass attacker Erika Eipp said of the defense. “Today they just did what they can do best and really carried us to the win.”

The Minutewomen (19-1, 8-0 Atlantic 10) never trailed Friday en route to their first NCAA tournament victory since 2013 and its second in its last eight appearances. However, it appeared early on against Jacksonville that it would be a back-and-forth affair.

The two teams traded goals three times over the first 28 minutes and were deadlocked at 3-3 with one minute, 16 seconds remaining in the first half.

That’s when UMass went on its first run of the day, taking control with three straight goals to close the frame.

Eipp started the run with her third goal of the day off an assist from Katie Ott. Holly Turner then followed suit with 16 seconds left, appearing to provide the Minutemen with a two-goal lead heading into intermission.

But on the ensuing faceoff, Hannah Murphy won the draw and threw a long pass downfield to a streaking Eipp, who outraced her defender to score again with eight seconds left. UMass carried its 6-3 advantage into the break.

“Hannah and I practice that a lot in practice so we have that down to a tee,” Eipp said about the goal off the faceoff. “It was awesome that it worked out today in a game.”

“It was huge for us to break the game open a little bit and get some momentum,” Minutewomen coach Angela McMahon said. “We took control of what we wanted to do from thereon out. Credit that to our defense, winning the draw controls and putting away our opportunities when we have them.”

The second half opened similarly to the first with even play on both sides. Jacksonville shrunk its deficit to two on three occasions and trailed 9-7 halfway through the frame.

But UMass embarked on another three-goal run to put the game away and clinch a spot in the second round.

Eipp led the Minutewomen with a career-high five goals, bringing her total to 41 in 2015. Murphy added three scores while Turner tallied two in a balanced scoring attack.

“(Eipp) wanted the ball in her stick and she executed,” McMahon said. “She was poised, in control and was basically playing with ice in her veins. She handles pressure in these big game situations so well.”

Meanwhile, Murphy also played a key role in helping UMass win the possession battle and further keep the Dolphins’ dangerous offense at bay. Murphy won a team-high 10 draw controls and the Minutewomen held the faceoff advantage 17-to-6.

Friday’s victory marked another milestone for McMahon in a season that included her 100th victory as a head coach earlier this year. With the win over Jacksonville – her 91st at the helm at UMass – she tied the program record.

Up next for UMass is top-seeded Maryland, who took home the national championship in 2014. According to McMahon, finding similar success on the draw control and in limiting turnovers will be crucial for an upset.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country and we’re really going to have to buckle down and make sure we take care of the ball and execute on offense,” McMahon said. “I think having ball possession is going to be critical.”

Sunday’s second round matchup begins at noon.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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