Women’s lacrosse notebook: UMass mounts comeback against Davidson to finish off regular season

Minutewomen host Atlantic 10 tournament next weekend

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller and Joseph Aliberti

Following a slow start, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team stepped onto the pitch in the second half prepared to begin the comeback efforts and keep an undefeated record in conference play. No. 13 UMass (15-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10) went on an 8-3 scoring run in the final two quarters to defeat Davidson, 13-11. With the win, the team claimed the regular season A-10 conference title.

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UMass struggled to generate opportunities offensively to start the game, with the Wildcats (12-4, 6-3 A-10) coming out strong. For the first time this season in conference play, the Minutewomen’s opponent got the first points on the board and Davidson would go on to score three unanswered goals in the opening four minutes.

It was the effort of Davidson’s defense, with its goaltender Amanda Monahan at the forefront, who left UMass’ star forwards completely covered. Haley Connaughton, Kelly Marra, Kendra Harbinger, and Alex Finn struggled to get any shots off. Coming in off the bench, it was Fiona McGowen who scored first for the Minutewomen off a free position shot. Monahan ended the game with 12 saves.

Towards the end of the quarter, UMass began to gain some momentum, utilizing the scoring depth and relaying on each other rather than driving towards the net on its own. Connaughton found Harbinger in the center, who easily tucked the shot away for the second goal.

Heading into the second quarter, the Minutewomen were left with a one goal deficit and increased the pressure to combat Davidson, but Connaughton soon leveled the score.

Throughout the first half, Davidson appeared unfazed as UMass attempted to come back. The Wildcats held the lead throughout the quarter and with less than 30 seconds remaining, Emily Weld recorded her second goal of the day for Davidson to have an 8-5 lead over the Minutewomen at the half.

Part of UMass’ struggles were the multiple turnovers given up in the offensive end, with numerous crease violations and illegal procedure calls. Davidson continued to capitalize at a high rate, and the Minutewomen couldn’t afford to continue the turnovers if they hoped to chip away at the deficit and overtake the lead.

The Minutewomen gained the lead for the first time all afternoon early in the fourth quarter after two quick goals. McGowen started the efforts, picking up the hattrick, and was followed up with a goal from Marra, giving UMass a one goal lead. McGowen wouldn’t stop there, tucking away another to give the Minutewomen their first multi-goal advantage.

Minutes later, Finn refused to let the high defensive pressure stop her, ducking and dodging the defender before finding McGowen charging towards the goal. She then found the back of the net for her fifth and final time in Saturday’s contest.

The two-point difference in Saturday’s contest is the closest UMass had all season. The Wildcats scored more goals (11) and allowed less (13) against the Minutewomen than any other conference foe.

Davidson made the most of its opportunities, scoring 11 goals on 15 shots on net. Davidson even had a two-goal lead with less than five minutes left in the third, before this game no conference opponent had a lead in the second half over the Minutewomen.

For a team that doesn’t have many weaknesses, Davidson got closer than any other conference opponent by attacking UMass’ biggest weakness this season: its goaltending.

The Minutewomen lead the conference in goals, points and shots on goal. They also are second in the conference in goals allowed per game, with just under 10. But UMass has the worst save percentage in the entire conference at .373. Davidson has the highest this season at .508 percent.

The 25-to-15 shots on goal disparity on Saturday didn’t have as much effect on this game in comparison to most other lacrosse games. The Minutewomen’s highly athletic defense succeeds by overwhelming opposing offenses, which leads to a small number of shots on goal.

Even though they didn’t do it, the Wildcats proved that UMass can be beaten, but it won’t be too easy.

Along with the suffocating defense, the Minutewomen have the offensive firepower, as previously mentioned. Harbinger, Marra and Finn led the way in scoring for UMass all season. And now Haley Connaughton, last year’s leading scorer for the Minutewomen, has found her stride. She has 13 points in the last three games, more than any other player for UMass in that span. Adding a consistent Connaughton to an already deep scoring offense makes it even more difficult to opposing defenses.

UMass ends the season seated in first place in the conference and will receive a bye into the semifinals. The Minutewomen will play at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 29.

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

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