Minutewomen beats Davidson 14-7, advances to A-10 Championship game

UMass will face Saint Joseph’s in the title game, who they’ve beaten twice this season

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Kira Johnson/Daily Collegian

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

At the outset, it appeared that Friday’s Atlantic 10 Championship semifinal matchup between the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team and Davidson was going to be close. The two squads went back-and-forth early on, and it seemed that trend would continue the rest of the afternoon.

Then, the inevitable force that is the Minutewomen (14-2, 8-0 A-10) offense went on a 6-0 run between the first and the second, and it quickly appeared that UMass was on its way to another A-10 Championship appearance.

“We had a lot of people really step up on offense to catapult us to that win,” head coach Angela McMahon said after 14-7 victory. “Really proud of this team giving us an opportunity to play again on Sunday.”

One of the biggest reasons UMass couldn’t build its lead early on was an uncharacteristic game from senior Caitlyn Petro. The NCAA Division I leader in draw controls this season had just four on the afternoon as the Minutewomen were consistently outworked in that area.

“I definitely think Caitlyn Petro is going to bounce back on Sunday because she’s going to be more focused and disciplined,” McMahon said of the All-Conference Second Team player. “[Davidson] just put a lot of pressure on her, and it’s something that we’re going to do a great job of handling on Sunday.”

UMass compensated for their lack of possession off of draw controls by playing a stifling brand of defense. They were forcing turnovers throughout the contest, but really found their groove in the second half. During UMass’ run, the Wildcats (11-4, 6-1 A-10) went nearly 30 minutes without scoring and found paydirt just twice in the second half.

“They were all over the place putting pressure on, they were really doing a great job of marking [players] inside,” McMahon said of the defense’s performance. “Anytime the ball hit the turf, we were all over it… they made some huge stops, which really gave us opportunities to convert on the other end.”

The Minutewomen attackers certainly took advantage of some of those opportunities to convert. Still, they were held to their lowest goal total in nearly two months by an aggressive and physical defense that made it tough for UMass to orchestrate their free-flowing offense around and behind the net. But hat tricks from Stefanie Croke and Caitlyn Cerasi, along with solid contributions from the rest of the offense, gave the Minutewomen a comfortable lead throughout much of the contest.

“We were really just sticking with that team first mentality of anybody being able to step up at any time,” McMahon said of how the team adjusted to the Wildcats’ defense. “When we weren’t getting the looks that we wanted, our whole dynamic is that we’re fearless, and we rely on every single person to be a threat. And that’s why I think we’ve been so successful as a group.”

With their potent offense, UMass hopes to continue their success as a group this Sunday against Saint Joseph’s, who beat Richmond on Friday in the other A-10 Semifinal. The Minutewomen are undefeated against the Hawks this season, with their latest win coming in the regular season finale by a score of 18-13. But with a chance to win a conference championship, McMahon isn’t taking their familiar foe lightly.

“It’s a totally different game when your season’s on the line [along with] a bid for the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “While it’s good to have had success against them, we’re also treating it as if it’s a brand-new game… we’re approaching it as if we’ve got a 0-0 record against them as we go into Sunday, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to play.”

With the A-10 Championship title up for grabs on Sunday, faceoff in Amherst is scheduled for noon.

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