UMass women’s lacrosse force 21 turnovers in bounce back win against Vermont

Olivia Muscella scores career-high four goals

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Lynus Erickson/ Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

Forced turnovers came few and far between in the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team’s loss to Boston College one week ago. The Minutewomen retaliated by pestering Vermont Wednesday afternoon, forcing 21 turnovers in their 17-12 home win.

“I think it was just being super aggressive,” UMass (2-1) head coach Angela McMahon-Serpone said of her team’s success in forcing turnovers.  “I thought it was a real team mentality … Everyone was riding really hard and just playing aggressive, not letting [Vermont] dictate what we were doing.”

Of the team’s 17 goals, 12 were scored by three players: Olivia Muscella, Kendra Harbinger and Kelly Marra. Each player scored four, a career high for Muscella.

“I think just Focusing on just playing with my teammates [is key],” Muscella said of her success with goal-scoring. “Alex [Finn] and I had a play that we just made in the middle of the game, and we executed it. I got the chills because I love playing with my teammates … I love making a play in the middle of the game and actually doing it, that’s a good feeling.”

Harbinger is the leading scorer for the Minutewomen this season with nine goals through three games. The Albany transfer is helping ease the temporary loss of Haley Connaughton, who has not played in any of the three games for UMass this season.

“[Harbinger is] super dynamic, shifty, she’s a team player, she rides hard,” McMahon-Serpone said. “She does a lot. I think she’s really dangerous [on the attack] with Kelly Marra. She creates a lot of opportunities for us.”

The onslaught of scoring for the Minutewomen did not present itself immediately. The Catamounts (2-1) jumped out to a 3-1 after a free position goal, forcing McMahon-Serpone to call a timeout. UMass scored three straight following the timeout and extended the lead to 9-4 by halftime.

Five different players won draw controls for the Minutewomen, with Audra Tosone leading the way with five. Maya Keenan-Gallagher won three off the bench and came in consistently in the second half to take the draws.

“I think confidence [helps] but also [Keenan-Gallagher is] really powerful and she’s been working so hard in practice all year long to improve,” McMahon Serpone said about what Keenan-Gallagher offers when she takes draw controls. “I thought she did a great job of shifting that momentum for us.”

A focus on changing the way practice went after the blowout loss against BC was of high importance for McMahon-Serpone. She highlighted turnovers and giving up fouls as controllable mistakes that needed to be improved upon in practice.

“I think we were a lot more accountable, more self-disciplined but also holding our teammates accountable,” Harbinger said of what changed in the week of practice following the loss to the No. 1 ranked Eagles. “That just brought the competitive edge way up in practice. You could see it on the field today.”

Those challenges in practice paid off on gameday.

“I honestly think [the coaches] were just harder on us,” Muscella said. “We work well under pressure and when someone is on our back keeping us accountable all the time, and they’ve been on our back keeping us accountable the entire week, which I think we thrive off of and we appreciate.”

UMass plays two more games home at Garber field before hitting the road for five straight games and nearly the entire month of March. The next two games for the Minutewomen come against familiar foes in Boston University and Connecticut, both of whom they faced last season. They defeated the Terriers in decisive fashion, winning 23-13 while splitting their two games against the Huskies. Both games against UConn were decided by an overtime goal.

The next game is this Saturday at 1 p.m. against BU (0-2), who has lost to both BC and Vermont this season.

Joey Aliberti can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.