Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Fiona McGowan leads UMass to the Atlantic-10 Championship game

Connection with Alex Finn steered the ship for the Minutewomen
Kayla Wong / Daily Collegian

Fiona McGowan showed why she was named the Atlantic-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year with a huge performance for the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team in the A-10 Tournament Semifinals on Friday. Her eight-point performance helped guide first-seeded UMass (16-1, 10-0 A-10) to a 15-8 victory against No. 4 Davidson and earn a berth in the conference championship game.

The Minutewomen led the Wildcats (12-6, 6-3 A-10) by a score of 12-5 entering the fourth quarter, and Davidson started to gain momentum by scoring three consecutive goals in just one minute and 23 seconds. It held UMass in its defensive end for most of the quarter, and the tables looked like they were turning even with the Minutewomen grasping onto a four-goal lead. That was until McGowan took matters into her own hands and scored three straight goals herself to cement UMass’ bid in the Atlantic-10 Championship Game.

“That’s just the way [McGowan] plays,” head coach Jana Drummond said. “She’s a big momentum shifter for our team. Everyone sees her as that leader, so her being able to finish those plays was so helpful in rallying the whole crew.”

The three goals she scored near the end of the contest all came in the same fashion: breaking away from an off-ball pick near the eight-meter line, cutting to the top of the crease and one-timing a perfect feed from behind the net. All three goals were assisted by Alex Finn.

The Westwood, Mass. native finished the game with five goals and three assists, making this the fifth time she registered at least eight points in a game this season. Her first two goals of the afternoon both came from free positions after being knocked down to the turf by Wildcat defenders. For the first one, she used her speed to move in and beat Davidson goalie Amanda Monahan with a stick fake to score. McGowan fought through a few crosses up near her face and used the turf to her advantage for her second tally, bouncing the ball through traffic and into the cage.

What sets McGowan apart from other attackers around the conference is her ability to create scoring chances with her passing. The Wildcats saw this early, with her registering all three of her assists in the first half. The A-10 leader in assists per game found Charlotte Wilmoth in front of the net and made it an easy finish for her midway through the first quarter to make it 3-2.McGowan followed that up with a similar play that allowed Kassidy Morris to get open and get a good release on the ball to make it 4-2.

“The high IQ plays have helped a lot,” Drummond said. “[McGowan] puts everyone in a good spot, and I feel like it’s very hard to defend her and [Finn] when they can be creative, read defenses and set each other up.”

McGowan has great chemistry with all her teammates on the field, but her connection with Finn may be the most prevalent for UMass. They both played together at Westwood High School, so they have always been familiar with one another’s play style and bring out each other’s strengths. The senior attackers can be found frequently dishing the ball out from “X” and are as lethal as any duo in the conference with their accuracy and ability to read the defense in front of them.

Finn’s second goal of the game came off a feed from McGowan at the side of the net, where she used one quick move to put it over Monahan and in. She made a similar play while a woman-up to get Finn the ball, moving out from behind the net, where she took a few steps and put a low shot into the Davidson goal. She did not get credit for an assist on this play, but McGowan’s impact was just as important to extend the Minutewomen lead.

“They’re both just such great players,” Drummond said. “I think both really know each other well. They work so hard together on and off the field, and seeing it come to fruition was phenomenal.”

McGowan now leads the team in goals with 42 after her impressive offensive performance and remains the A-10 leader in assists with 45 and points with 87. The senior is one of the most important players on the sixth highest-scoring offense in the nation and will be a huge factor in bringing another A-10 title back to Amherst.

UMass will rest on Saturday and then play the second-seeded Richmond Spiders in the A-10 Championship Game on Sunday at 12 p.m.

Scottie Marro can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @scottiemarro.

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