‘Attack mode’ mentality propels Minutewomen to 27-2 rout over Saint Bonaventure

The two goals allowed by UMass are the fewest in a half decade

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Kira Johnson/Daily Collegian

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

Just under 20 minutes into the contest and already up double digits, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team spotted a hapless Saint Bonaventure attacker taking the ball up the field. Teri Manzelli, who scored the Bonnies’ (2-10, 0-8 A-10) lone goal up to that point, was quickly swarmed by two Minutewomen (12-2, 7-0 A-10) midfielders as she tried to approach the attacking zone down the sideline.

With nowhere to go, Manzelli attempted a desperate no-look heave of the ball behind her head—to no avail, of course. The ball went out of bounds and UMass quickly stormed down the field, resulting in a goal just a half a minute later to increase the lead to 12.

“I thought our defense did a great job of playing very aggressive,” UMass head coach Angela McMahon said after the 27-2 drubbing. “[We] just really played well as a team, hitting each area – draws, defense [and] offense… it was a great overall team effort.”

Although the Minutewomen built their lead in the attacking zone through their seemingly never-ending list of offensive playmakers, they won the game in the midfield. Almost every time the Bonnies tried to mount an attack of their own, the player in transition with the ball was met by two, or even three, UMass midfielders. This hyper-aggressive ball pressure scheme by McMahon was a resounding success for her and the team, as St. Bonaventure struggled to even get the ball into the attacking zone and turned it over 17 times.

“It’s really just being on the same page,” McMahon said of the Minutewomen’s success in their aggression on Friday. “They were really united in that it wasn’t just one person pressuring; it was all of them, and that’s what created a lot of turnovers for us… the aggressiveness and mentality of being in attack mode, wherever it was on the field, I thought we did a good job of.”

That midfield play, coupled with a dominant outing from the team’s defenders, resulted in just five shots on goal for the Bonnies compared to 39 for the Minutewomen. Only one of those five shots came in the first half with the deficit within at least 20 goals. That was a product of not only Caitlyn Petro’s record-setting 24 draw controls and the team’s overall control of possession throughout the contest, but the defense shutting down St. Bonaventure’s few appearances in the offensive zone, as well.

“We just had the ball possession, ultimately, between draws and then causing turnovers,” McMahon said of how the team was so successful in limiting the Bonnies scoring chances. “The couple of times we didn’t get settled in on defense, we were still of that attacking mindset and really limiting opportunities and keeping them outside.”

The two goals UMass let up on Friday were the fewest they’ve allowed since 2016, which, ironically, also came in a 20-goal win over Saint Bonaventure. This season, the Minutewomen have let up more than 15 goals just once and allowed fewer than 10 goals seven times during their 11-game win streak.

Their sense of connectedness in all three phases of the game, not just on offense, is what makes them not only a favorite to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but a legitimate contender for best team in the country.

“It’s just the kids being connected and united in what we’re doing,” McMahon said of how she hopes to carry this performance into the rest of the season. “That’s the key element – everything we do, we do as a team… every single person is critical to have [this] type of success, so that’s what we’re going to push.”

Sporting an 11-game winning streak, this synergic UMass squad will look to end its regular season on a high note on Sunday against Saint Joseph’s. Faceoff in Philly is scheduled for noon.

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