Minutewomen suppress La Salle in conference opener

Sunday’s Colon Cancer Awareness Game was dedicated to captain Olivia Muscella’s late mother

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Dylan Corey, Collegian Correspondent

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team weathered the elements as well as its first conference opponent on Sunday, taking down La Salle 17-10 at a stormy Garber Field.

UMass’ (5-2, 1-0 Atlantic 10) offense came out deadly as ever, with the first five goals being scored by separate players. Kelly Marra paced the Minutewomen with seven goals, the highest individual mark this year on the team.

La Salle (2-4, 0-1 A-10) went on a rapid 5-1 run midway through the first half to cut the lead to two. UMass returned fire with five-straight goals on a run that began in the waning minutes of the first half, and bled through the first few possessions of the second. The Explorers were never able to find their way back within a five-goal deficit.

For head coach Angela McMahon and the team, this win had a significance that transcends the win streak. They played the game in honor of senior captain Olivia Muscella’s mother, Kendra Muscella, who died from colon cancer last spring.

“That was really special to be able to honor her memory, but also having her family in attendance because it was the first game that we had with fans,” McMahon said. “It was great just having people in the stands and being able to honor an amazing woman in Kendra Muscella.”

Olivia Muscella continued her impressive season with two goals on Sunday, including an isolation drive and shot that she somehow managed to sneak around La Salle’s goalie Molly Loughlin.

The highlight goal of the day came from Haley Connaughton, when she went behind the back after a perfect feed from midfielder Stephanie Croke. Connaughton gained possession as she cut across the top of the crease, and took a sliver of daylight to find the left side of the net.

UMass totaled just one more shot than the Explorers, but Massachusetts goalie Lauren Hiller saved 13 attempts compared to Loughlin’s nine.

The Minutewomen held a 21-8 advantage on the draw control. Caitlyn Petro won 16 herself, which ties the fourth-highest total in school history. This is not new territory for Petro, who also owns the first and third spots on that list. She set both of those records in April of 2019 with 19 and 17 draw control wins respectively.

Before Petro, Hannah Murphy was setting single season records that remain standing. From 2015-2017, Murphy broke her own record and now holds the top three season totals in school history. Now, Murphy is an assistant coach for McMahon and helping Petro be as strong as she can. When Murphy was playing, former assistant Kelsey McGovern was a UMass alum mentoring her through. See the pattern?

“Something that we pay attention to in recruiting is making sure that part of the legacy that each of them bring is that they help develop the next one,” McMahon said. “I think they all really take a lot of pride in that because we put so much time, attention, and effort towards that aspect.”

A-10 play will continue on the road for the Minutewomen’s next two games. First up is Duquesne, slated for Thursday, April 1 at 1 p.m.

Dylan Corey can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @thedylancorey.