UMass upperclassmen have afternoon to remember in 21-9 senior day shellacking of Duquesne

After Sunday’s win, the Minutewomen are on a 10-game winning streak

Courtesy+of+UMass+Athletics

Courtesy of UMass Athletics

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

Sunday went just about as well as the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team could have hoped for in its 21-10 senior day win over Duquesne. The Minutewomen (11-2, 6-0 Atlantic 10) earned their 10th straight victory. Attacker Kaitlyn Cerasi scored yet another SportsCenter Top 10-worthy goal for UMass Athletics and draw control specialist Caitlyn Petro set a program record.

Most importantly, the class of 2021 seniors shined in the victory, while current grad students who missed their senior days last year, such as Cerasi, midfielder Stephanie Croke and goalkeeper Lauren Hiller starred, as well.

“They’re such an amazing group of leaders… and high character people that have really done so much for our entire program and the culture of the program,” UMass head coach Angela McMahon said of her soon-to-graduate upperclassmen.

Arguably the most impactful senior, Petro had a career day before being honored postgame. She recorded 21 draw controls in the contest, breaking the UMass program record she set two and a half weeks earlier. Even more impressive was the fact that it came against another elite draw control specialist in Duquesne’s (4-3, 3-3 A-10) Maddie Hart, who had a mere six DCs on Sunday.

No one in the country is better than Petro at draw controls, and it’s not particularly close. Despite being bested on draw controls against Boston College and twice against Connecticut early in the season, she’s averaging 13 DCs per game on the year, which leads NCAA Division I by a wide margin. The second-best specialist in Southern California’s Maddie McDaniel is more than a full three draw controls per game behind Petro on the national leaderboard.

“I think it’s really just focusing on the details for her, the little things, and really focusing in on herself to be the best she can possibly be,” McMahon said on how Petro has improved over the last couple of months. “She knows that in order for us to be successful that she’s got to do her job, as does everybody else, and I think that she’s just a little bit more focused and deliberate on how she trains and how she prepares.”

Croke was the main Minutewoman who capitalized on the increased possessions Petro provided with her draw control domination. The graduate student led the team in points while firing five shots to the back of the net.

But her best play of the afternoon was a creative bounce pass to fellow five-goal scorer Cerasi, who flung a shot behind the back past Duquesne goalie Mady Piersielak, sending the play-by-play announcers on the call to a near-indecipherable hysteria.

“She’s such a competitor,” McMahon said of Croke. “I think she’s probably one of the best midfielders we’ve ever had in our program’s history. She’s doing everything for us and with her speed and awareness on the field and her ability to make plays – when she gets the ball in the open field, there’s just nobody that can stop her.”

But as with many wins in this recent winning streak for the Minutewomen, this was a total team effort, led by the seniors and fifth years on their special day. Defenders Audrey Fantazzia and Courtney Barrett were instrumental to the defensive game plan that allowed just 15 shots on goal. Haley Connaughton had, for her, a relatively quiet six-point game, bringing her season point total to 62. She and the rest of her fellow fourth years and graduate students combined for 24 of UMass’ 34 points, portraying just how important these experienced playmakers are to this program’s recent run of success.

“They really stepped up today, and their whole career they’ve been impact players,” McMahon said of the seniors. “They’re great connectors amongst our team, and I’m so excited we have more games together and we can celebrate them all the way through the end of the season as long as we can keep this team together… I couldn’t be more proud of this team, and especially our senior class.”

The Minutewomen and their invaluable veterans will look to extend their winning streak to 11 games on Friday against Saint Bonaventure. UMass has already bested the Bonnies once on the year with a 21-9 victory in early April. With a chance to sweep the season series, faceoff in Amherst is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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