Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

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

Another dominant first half leads UMass to seventh straight victory over Saint Bonaventure

Minutewomen scored 16 of their 21 goals in the first 30 minutes, including five in the first five
Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half and the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team up six goals on Saint Bonaventure, a Minutewoman (8-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) attacker found the ball in front of the net off a well-timed pass and cut. She was met and harassed by four Bonaventure (2-6, 0-4 Atlantic 10) defenders and quickly drew a foul, resulting in a free position shot and eventual goal for Stephanie Croke.

This play was indicative of UMass’ success with cutters to the net throughout the afternoon and the necessary attention the Bonnies had to place on those cutters, who had no answers defensively in a 21-9 rout by the Minutewomen.

“It’s causing confusion because if the ball’s moving and our bodies are moving, it’s hard to keep track of everybody,” UMass head coach Angela McMahon said of the Minutewomen’s success on these off-ball drives to the net. “We have defenders going over and playing on offense, so our sort of philosophy is that [for] the first seven people over, we don’t care what position you are, and that can be tricky [to stop].”

As they have done often in their seven-game winning streak, that balanced ball movement and playmaking allowed the Minutewomen to set the tone early. They scored 16 of their 21 goals in the first half, including five in the first five minutes of the contest. Over its last five first halves, UMass has averaged 13 goals and outscored their opponents 65-20 (a plus 45 goal differential).

“[Asserting ourselves] has been a huge goal and emphasis for us going into each game,” McMahon said of her team’s hot starts. “Early on in the season, we struggled with that a bit, so we just got back to the drawing board in terms of what makes us successful and start off games in sort of an attack mode. It’s about coming out with draw controls, then pushing the pace in the transition game and putting a lot of pressure on the [defense] and causing chaos for them.”

That draw control domination in particular was a huge part of Saturday’s win, and was historic, too. While it’s no surprise at this point in the season to see senior Caitlyn Petro succeed in this area, her 20 DCs on the afternoon helped lead the Minutewomen to a ridiculous 27-4 draw control advantage.

“Can you give a shoutout to Caitlyn Petro?” McMahon said in the postgame presser. “I believe she broke a UMass single game draw [control] record today.”*

*This record is not listed in the Massachusetts Women’s Lacrosse official record book. It is currently being verified for accuracy by a UMass communications department representative.

Outside of Petro’s potency in this area, other UMass players stepped up across the field. In particular, attacker Julia Smith and midfielder Fiona McGowan were the dynamic duo on the afternoon. Smith netted five goals in the contest while McGowan converted a hat trick on just four shots.

“They just had great ball movement; they’re seeing the lanes and openings,” McMahon said of this attacker-midfielder pairing. “Whether it [was] off cuts or off drives, I thought that they did a really good job of finishing the opportunities that they had and really putting their shots away.”

Despite those two leading the way, it was an entire team effort on offense and defense. Once again, the Minutewomen had double-digit goal scorers and the defense didn’t allow an even strength goal after almost 20 minutes of game action.

With every player working so synchronously with the rest of their teammates, this well-oiled machine is becoming increasingly difficult for opponents to slow down.

“Having all seven people going over and being a threat at all times, playing fast, keeping the ball moving quick [was huge],” McMahon said. “The balance of the scoring… it might be Steph [Croke], sometimes it’s [Kaitlyn] Cerasi, sometimes it’s Haley [Connaughton], sometimes it’s [Kelly] Marra – there’s just so many weapons stepping up for us that we’re really starting to find our rhythm and chemistry.”

The rhythm certainly has the Minutewomen in a nice groove right now. They’re currently on a seven-game winning streak and haven’t scored less than 15 goals in almost a month. Still, there is room for improvement as the season moves along.

“Focusing on the ball possession game, whether it’s in our clears, turnovers, and being patient on offense,” McMahon said of where the team can get better at this stage. “Just staying disciplined in the details, [too]. The little, little things go a big way, especially as the stakes increase each game where every team is fighting for a playoff spot.”

With a matchup against New Hampshire slated for April 6 being postponed, the Minutewomen will take the field next against Saint Joseph’s on April 9. Faceoff in Amherst is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Freeman Alfano can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @freemanalfano.

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