UMass hangs on to defeat Davidson in the A-10 semifinals

Defensive pressure carries the Minutewomen Friday afternoon

Sophie-Zoe+Schreyer%2FDaily+Collegian

Sophia-Zoe Schreyer

Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

In a repeated matchup from last weekend, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team held on to defeat Davidson 11-8 in the Atlantic 10 conference semifinals.

Momentum was expected for the Minutewomen (15-2, 9-0 A-10) heading into the fourth after Maddy Mololney’s last-second goal, but just the opposite occurred. The Wildcats (13-4, 6-3 A-10) outscored the Minutewomen 3-0 in the fourth. UMass gave Davidson control of the tempo, but time ran out before the Wildcats had the chance to make a big push.

The primary reason Davidson has been the Minutewomen’s toughest conference opponent is goaltending. Amanda Monahan was an all A-10 first team goalie for the Wildcats this season, she saved 19 of UMass’ 30 shots on goal, the highest save percentage (.633) any goalie had in a game against the Minutewomen this season.

“[Monahan] just really steps up for them, is capable of having some really big games,” Minutewomen head coach Angela McMahon-Serpone said. “We just have to make sure that moving forward we’re putting away our opportunities and making every offensive possession count.”

The Wildcats controlled possession for much of last weekend’s game, which the Minutewomen won 13-11. Davidson held the lead heading into the fourth quarter last weekend, this weekend UMass had an 11-5 advantage after three quarters.

“Last week we sort of let [the Wildcats] dictate the tempo especially early on, especially in the first half,” McMahon-Serpone said. “I thought that was a good lesson for us to make sure we were coming out and asserting ourselves and I think we did that today.”

For UMass, the tempo was dictated on defense throughout. From the moment Davidson gained possession on the far side of the field, defenders rushed whoever had the ball. Minutewomen’s first team all A-10 defender Brinley Anderson along with three of her teammates each had three caused turnovers and allowed Davidson to take 13 shots on goal, compared to UMass’ 30.

“We do best when we kind of make that time go down on the shot clock and then we get in the defensive end and we only have 30 seconds to play defense,” Anderson said. “We really put a lot of emphasis on our ride and putting pressure on Davidson and today that was just all around the field, everyone was doing it.”

The playoff atmosphere prevailed for the two best defensive A-10 teams over most of the first quarter. Both the Minutewomen and the Wildcats had a safeguard on their nets. Every possession ran down nearly the full 90-second shot clock as nerves ran through Garber Field.

The nerves broke later in the first, as Davidson’s Lauren Arkell scored the opening goal, ultimately serving as the Wildcats’ lone score until halfway through the second.

After the opening goal, UMass netted six straight, and ended the half with a 7-3 lead.  Of those seven goals, Kendra Harbinger scored four, two of which came off rebounded shots. It’s now the fifth game this season where Harbinger scored at least four goals.

“Those are hustle plays, not necessarily our settled offense,” McMahon-Serpone said of Harbinger’s two rebound goals. “For her to come up with some of those loose balls is just great effort and commitment to helping her team as much as she could.”

With this win, UMass takes on either Saint Joseph’s or Richmond in the A-10 final on Sunday. The Minutewomen have one game against each team, defeating the Hawks 14-8 and the Richmond Spiders 15-9, both in the month of April.

Along with Anderson, Olivia Muscella and Kelly Marra made all A-10 first team. Harbinger made second team along with defenders Hannah Heller and Courtney Barrett. McMahon-Serpone also won her seventh conference coach of the year award.

“I wish they would change the name to a staff of the year,” McMahon-Serpone said when asked about the achievement. “Ultimately, I think it is the assistant coaches who are developing the players day in and day out, grinding in the film sessions. I really credit them in terms of their passion and hard work and commitment to the player development.”

UMass will play in the A-10 Championship this Sunday at 12 p.m. on Garber field.

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