Weller: How UMass can repeat as Atlantic 10 champions

UMass showed signs of struggle in its regular season game against Davidson

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

On April 23, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team came from behind to defeat Davidson in its regular season finale. On Thursday morning, It was déjà vu for the Wildcats (13-4, 6-3 Atlantic 10) in their quarterfinal matchup against Duquesne, only this time they experienced things from the other side.

Davidson fell behind early and was forced to have a strong fourth quarter to provide it with a win in the quarterfinal round of the A-10 tournament. Now the Wildcats move on to a rematch with the Minutewomen (15-2, 9-0 A-10) in Friday’s semifinal matchup.

From the first draw, the Dukes’ (7-10, 4-5 A-10) physicality on defense was too much for the Wildcats, not allowing Davidson to score or create any opportunities. This was similar to the style of play Davidson deployed against the Minutewomen, but this time it was being used against it.

Despite Duquesne’s physicality corresponding to more fouls than turnovers in the second half, it was still enough to rattle the Wildcats. UMass has been known to play physical but will need to show the same level that was displayed in the game against Richmond on April 10 in order to overpower Davidson for a second time.

Hannah Heller, who was named to the all-conference second team defense, led the physicality for UMass this season and she will need to be a leader on the field for Friday’s matchup. Her skill combined with Amy Moreau’s abilities in the midfield to cause turnovers and move the ball forward will prevent scoring opportunities from a skilled Wildcats team.

Davidson’s coverage on defense was poor on Thursday, allowing the Dukes to have too much room in the crease and thus letting them jump out to an early 6-0 lead. This was vastly different from the Wildcats’ previous game, with their defensive coverage handing the Minutewomen their largest struggle. Kendra Harbinger, Haley Connaughton, Kelly Marra, and Alex Finn were completely covered, and Davidson refused to let them get close to the goal and in a position to score.

The scoring depth has been a major strength for UMass this season, with it on full display throughout every game, but it is usually lead by the four-star players. Instead of leaning on this in the early minutes of the first Wildcats matchup, the Minutewomen looked towards the middle, hoping to find Harbinger or Marra open, rather than relying on the depth offensively. The culture of UMass is a team mentality, with every player contributing, and going into the game with no expectations of who will score and just allowing it to find the open player will garner opportunities from the jump.

The Wildcats’ goalkeeper, Amanda Monahan, received recognition as a first-team all-A-10 selection and lived up to that title in Thursday’s game. She was single handily the reason that the Davidson was able to maintain a one goal deficit and soon overtake the lead with seven saves on the day. The Minutewomen struggled to get shots in the back of the net and will need to be creative offensively to overcome her dominance in goal.

Davidson is the underdog on Friday, but certainly did not look like it in the regular season finale against UMass. This time they will come out even more determined, with a chip on their shoulder after allowing the Minutewomen to come back and win a game, even though they were outplayed for the first three quarters.

UMass is the most dominant team in the conference and has both the skill and drive to win, but the pressure is on it to live up to its regular season championship title. The final regular season game showed cracks in the foundation of their culture and style of play, and to seal those up, the Minutewomen must show up for the entire 60 minutes if they wish to advance because a fourth quarter surge might not be enough next time.

UMass will face off against Davidson at 11 a.m. on Friday, and the winner will go on to advance to the championship game at 12 p.m. on Sunday.

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