Physicality and grit leads UMass over Richmond, 15-9

No. 17 UMass record two cards to No. 19 Richmond’s four

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

From the first draw control, bodies were flying and determination showed as first place in the conference was on the line for the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team. No. 17 UMass (12-2, 6-0 Atlantic 10) played physical throughout Saturday’s matchup against Richmond.

“I thought we did a great job of just being really aggressive,” head coach Angela McMahon-Serpone said. “I think it’s just kind of natural in terms of the competitiveness of the teams. Just really athletic play on both sides of the ball. That just kind of naturally happens, especially for us, from playing aggressive.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Kelly Marra cut toward the net but was completely knocked off her feet, sliding on the ground and resulting in a free position shot. The amount of checking was indicative to the No. 19 Spiders’ (11-3, 5-1 A-10) play throughout the entire game, but the Minutewomen answered with physicality of their own. On the next play, Olivia Muscella took the draw control and didn’t win possession cleanly, but Hannah Heller used her stick to block off a Richmond player and allowed a UMass to scoop up the loose ball.

“Her mindset is just extremely aggressive,” McMahon-Serpone said about Heller’s playstyle. “I think it’s just about her putting herself into a position to have success, and she’s most successful when she’s out pressuring the ball.”

The Spiders’ defense was patient while the Minutewomen passed the ball around the outside of the arc, but the minute they crossed over, Richmond refused to let much production happen. Each person was covered and players with the ball were continuously pushed outside of any dangerous scoring areas. However, Richmond made a costly mistake late in the second quarter after it rushed to cover Fiona McGowen behind the net. Haley Connaughton noticed that and immediately cut to the front of the net, where McGowen found her wide open, and she buried a goal.

Maddy Moloney put UMass into double digits after charging inside the 12-meter fan and despite a small shove from the Spiders’ defenders, she got the shot off and scored as she fell to the ground. That play showcased UMass’ ability to fight through the physicality from the Richmond defense throughout the game.

On the other side of the field, UMass’ defense played as a unit, with aggression at the forefront of its game plan.

“They’ll take in the physicality from other teams, but they’ll just give it right back,” Gina Carroll said. “And that’s one of their most important features.”

The game remained close throughout the first quarter with Richmond quickly responding to every Minutewomen goal. UMass’ defensive efforts was one reason why it never trailed in the game, either holding the lead or keeping it tied. In the final minutes, the Spiders’ Colleen Quinn had the ball in front of the net, but the Minutewomen defense swarmed in, collapsing on her and forcing her to drop the ball, which was ultimately picked up by Carroll.

Richmond’s Lindsey Frank and Kendall Duffy were issued simultaneous yellow cards in the first quarter, leaving the Minutewomen with a two-man advantage for one minute. UMass’ first penalty wouldn’t come until the end of the first half when McGowen was issued a green card and sidelined for one minute.

A similar situation occurred in the fourth quarter, with the Spiders’ Hannah Custer earning a green card and joining her teammate Jax Donahue – who was called for a yellow card near the end of the third quarter – in the box. Brinley Anderson quickly capitalized on the advantage in players, potting a goal on the following possession.

Without hesitation, McMahon-Serpone had a few words to describe her team’s identity: “Extremely aggressive and athletic.”

UMass has shown intensity all season and it was elevated to its highest level on Saturday.

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