Haley Connaughton’s experience guides UMass to victory over Davidson on Friday

The Minutewomen advance to the finals for the fourth time in five years

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

In the semifinal matchup of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team leaned into its playoff experience, with Haley Connaughton at the forefront, as UMass (16-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10) defeated Davidson, 11-8 on Friday.

The Minutewomen roster includes 16 seniors and graduate students, with most of the fifth years having competed in four conference championships.

“I think they just have a sense of confidence and poise and calm about them,” head coach Angela McMahon-Serpone said. “They’re just so composed and poised and are able to elevate themselves, so I think it really permeates throughout the rest of the team in terms of settling down.”

Having been on the team for five years, Connaughton is no stranger to high caliber games. She helped lead the team to four A-10 championship games and two victories. In 2019, UMass fell to Richmond in overtime, but in 2021, the Minutewomen came back out after being unable to play due to the pandemic and defeated Saint Joseph’s for the championship. Connaughton and her teammates will look to get back-to-back wins when the play on Sunday.

“She has probably the highest lacrosse IQ on the field,” McMahon-Serpone said. “So, we just really trust her in terms of working with her teammates and making sure everyone’s organization out there. She does a great job. She’s a great leader.”

At the beginning of the year, Connaughton was named a captain and received accolades from Inside Lacrosse as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. While she was sidelined at the start of the season with an injury, Connaughton returned to the starting lineup and her style of play has begun to shine through.

After Kelly Marra got the Minutewomen’s first goal and tied it at one, UMass continued to look for an opening, but the high defensive pressure combined with Amanda Monahan in goal for the Wildcats (13-5, 6-3 A-10) kept the score tied. Connaughton chose to take matters into her own hands, going with her key move to give the Minutewomen the lead. After receiving the ball behind the net, she puts a move on her defender, faking them out, and got in the goalkeeper’s face to find the slight opening.

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“She’s just so dynamic,” McMahon-Serpone said. “She can beat someone with her deception, her creativity, but she can also feed her teammates. She loves to assist her teammates. She sees the field well.”

This was not the last time she showed up on the score card. She earned an assist on Kendra Harbinger’s first goal of the day and while she did not score another goal, her impact was enough to leave a lasting impression. Connaughton was accompanied by Amy Moreau, Olivia Muscella, and Brinley Anderson as captains this season. Their leadership is key for UMass to continue its success, and they look to be role models for the younger members of the team.

Prior to the tournament, Connaughton received recognition on the all-academic team for the A-10, with fellow captains Anderson and Muscella earning a spot on first-team all-conference. McMahon-Serpone was surprised to see Moreau’s name left off the list, with her strength in the midfield to get the ball forward and cause turnovers.

With just a short time until the championship game, it will be up to the captains to help calm the nerves of the team and ensure that they stick to their game plan. They will lead the Minutewomen on Sunday at 12 p.m. on Garber Field for the championship matchup.

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieeWellerr