UMass breezes past La Salle for ninth straight victory

The Minutewomen are now 5-0 in conference play

Nina+Walat%2FDaily+Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Dylan Corey, Collegian Staff

It was business as usual for the No. 14 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team on Friday, travelling to Philadelphia and beating La Salle 17-7 for its ninth straight win.

UMass (10-2, 5-0 Atlantic 10) improved its own score from late March, when they won 17-10 over the Explorers (3-8, 1-5 A-10). Senior attacker Kelly Marra scored a career-high seven goals in that game, while totaling four points on a hat trick and an assist this time around.

The physicality of La Salle is the one thing head coach Angela McMahon knew could shake the steady play of UMass. And although the Explorers held their own for the first few minutes, a 9-1 run in the first half dampened La Salle’s spirits as the rain poured down at halftime.

“We just had to make sure we were staying composed and making sure we were not letting that type of play take us out of our game,” McMahon said. “Just really making sure we were asserting ourselves, being aggressive, dictating the tempo of the play.”

Haley Connaughton put the Minutewomen on the board after just a minute of playing time on an isolation drive and shot. The “point guard” led UMass in points, goals, assists, shots and shots on goal.

The Minutewomen had nine total goal scorers and shared the love with six assists compared to one for La Salle. UMass won 15 more draw control opportunities and hurled a stunning 29 shots on goal out of 34 total attempts.

That’s the type of pressure that this offense has been displaying all year, averaging over 17 goals per game which is good for third in the nation. Their draw control is just as if not even more dominant, winning the third most in the country as a team. Draw control specialist Caitlyn Petro is securing a nation-best 12.20 draws per game, with the second player lagging behind at 9.83.

“We dominated draws and then we caused some really great turnovers on defense,” McMahon said. “Steph Croke, Hannah Heller, our speed demons out there really created and generated a lot of offense for us…specifically with our defense and Lauren Hiller getting the ball out quickly…we were really able to push the pace of play.”

The defense to offense combination has been especially evident in the past seven games, where UMass has won by an average margin of over 11 goals per game which would be even higher than the undefeated No. 1 powerhouse in North Carolina. Instead, earlier contests have dropped its average scoring margin to just a touch below seven goals a game — a figure still good for seventh in the country.

As the clock ticked under nine minutes, fifth-year goalkeeper Hiller was subbed out for the sophomore Bridgette Wall. It was Wall’s seventh appearance of the season, and she saved two shots before allowing two garbage time goals.

“She definitely plays older than she is. She always is really good about shutting down angles and leading the defense,” McMahon said of Wall. “She’s a great communicator, so I think she really helps our team when she’s out there.”

The Minutewomen have a quick turnaround and will play their penultimate home game on Sunday, April 18 against Duquesne. Opening draw is set for 12 p.m.

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