2022 women’s lacrosse season recap

The Minutewomen earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

A team built on experience and teamwork led Massachusetts women’s lacrosse to success in 2022, earning an undefeated regular season conference record and an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Minutewomen started the season off on a high note against UMass Lowell, dominating play and winning, 18-4. This was the first game at UMass for Kendra Harbinger, who transferred in from the University of Albany for her fifth year of eligibility, and she ended with four goals. The game also gave a glimpse into the scoring depth, with nine players recording goals, despite the Minutewomen being without Haley Connaughton, one of their star attackers.

Boston College, ranked No. 1 at the time, was next up on the schedule for UMass and humbled the team, showing there was still work to be done. Harbinger notched the first goal of the game, but after the first 10 minutes of play, the Eagles began to separate themselves, winning 22-5. At that point, the Minutewomen were ranked No. 24, and this foreshadowed the level of play they would face in some other non-conference matchups and later in the season if they made it to the NCAA Tournament.

They went on to win the following two matchups by large margins, defeating the University of Vermont, 17-11, and Boston University 21-6. However, when faced with its second ranked opponent of the season, UMass fell to UConn, 17-14 on March 5.

Throughout this matchup, the Minutewomen started the game strong, heading into the half with the lead, but fell apart in the second. In the final 30 minutes, UMass scored only three goals, but allowed nine. This game was also in memory of midfielder Olivia Muscella’s mother, Kendra Muscella, who passed away from colon cancer, and was part of a national campaign called Game Hair Havoc. Along with being featured in a video about the foundation at halftime, Muscella notched two goals during the games.

Also, despite the loss, the Minutewomen regained a strong offensive presence in Haley Connaughton, who returned to the field after being sidelined with an ankle injury. Connaughton was named a captain in 2022 and received recognition from Inside Lacrosse as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the A-10. Her playtime was limited against UConn, but she was vital in the following game against No. 19 ranked Vanderbilt.

“I think, you know, boiled down to that turning point of the Vanderbilt game,” head coach Angela McMahon-Serpone said. “For us, that really carried our momentum into the remainder of our season, you know, coming off of a tough loss to UConn where we didn’t feel like we played our best.”

UMass returned to its roots against Vanderbilt, dictating the pace of play and showcasing a high level of offensive production, winning 18-7. After falling to their first two ranked opponents of the year, this was a promising win for the Minutewomen. After defeating Vanderbilt, UMass picked up two more easy wins against Siena College (18-12) and Dartmouth College (13-9) before beginning conference play.

“I think that momentum shift really carried us into conference play,” McMahon-Serpone said. “I just think that team first mentality, the team style play, really opened those doors for us to have success in the conference.”

For the third season in a row, disregarding the 2020 season that was cancelled due to the pandemic, UMass posted a perfect conference record, with its first loss coming in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Minutewomen’s first conference matchup was against St. Bonaventure, who they rolled over, winning 22-4. From there, UMass picked up wins against Duquesne (21-9), Virginia Commonwealth University (20-7), George Mason (19-7), and George Washington (22-8), before going up against its toughest conference game of the regular season.

Richmond sat alongside the Minutewomen in first place of the A-10 heading into their game on April 10, and the winner would go on to gain sole possession of that spot. In the first quarter, the score was tied up at two, but at halftime, UMass had started to separate themselves and at the conclusion of the 60 minutes of play, UMass won 15-9.

The Minutewomen concluded the regular season with three wins in their final three games, defeating La Salle (19-5) and Saint Joseph (14-8) before closing out the season against Davidson (13-11).

The A-10 Tournament was held at Garber Field and allowed the Minutewomen to focus on their next matchup rather than having to travel. UMass earned a first-round bye and faced off against Davidson in the semifinals, maintaining the lead despite almost falling in the fourth quarter. The Minutewomen were held scoreless in the final 15 minutes, but the 11 goals scored over the course of three quarters was enough to award them the win.

In the championship game, UMass played against St. Joseph’s and the score remained close throughout the first half, with the Minutewomen only leading by one at the end of the second quarter. Coming out for the third quarter, UMass was unable to find the back of the net and scored just three in the fourth but allowed eight goals in the second half.

On May 8, UMass received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, keeping their season alive for one final game against Princeton, While they put up a fight, the Minutewomen were unable to come out on top, losing 15-9 and thus ending the season.

That loss also marked the final games for the nine graduate students who helped lead the team to success over the past seasons. Their leadership along with the seven seniors have helped build the culture of UMass lacrosse and build confidence amongst the younger members.

“They kind of been through a lot of different, you know, scenarios and situations, both on and off the field,” McMahon-Serpone said. “They’ve had success, they’ve had failures, and they’ve figured out how to work through those and problem solve.”

Prior to the conference tournament, McMahon-Serpone was recognized as the Coach of the Year for the A-10, her seventh time winning the award. Kelly Marra, Muscella, and Brinley Anderson earned a spot on the first-team all-conference, with Harbinger, Courtney Barrett, and Hannah Heller garnering a spot on the second team. Jordan Dean’s efforts in the circle earned her a spot on the all-rookie team. Marra, Harbinger, Gina Carroll, and Haley Connaughton received recognition on the all-academic team.

Looking forward to the 2023 season, McMahon-Serpone is optimistic about where the team is headed despite losing so many players.

“I just think it’s continuing to push that team mentality of, you know, not necessarily revolving anything that we do around one person and really continuing to build the relationships both on and off the team,” McMahon-Serpone said. “They’ve got the right mindset, and they’re driven and hungry. And I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament so that they could, you know, get that taste of top competition.”

“I think that they’re going to run with it and really learn from that and grow and hopefully improve for next year.”

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