UMass women’s lacrosse clinches Atlantic 10 regular season title with comeback

By MATT VAUTOUR

@MattVautourDHG

Published: 04-23-2017 10:56 PM

AMHERST — In the 52 previous victories in UMass’ record conference winning streak, there haven’t been many where the Minutewomen fell as far behind as they did Sunday against George Mason.

But, in what could be a preview of the Atlantic 10 championship game next month, the UMass women’s lacrosse team rallied to escape with No. 53, an 18-17 win over the Patriots at Garber Field.

The triumph gave the Minutewomen the regular season title and a guarantee of being the No. 1 seed at the conference tournament at Saint Joseph’s next month.

“To come from behind and score that many goals was great,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “Our team has a lot of heart. I think they exhibited it in this situation. It’s easy to give up, and they kept fighting on all fronts.”

Junior Hannah Burnett tied her own single-game school record with eight goals, and UMass needed every one.

“It showed we can fight back from anything,” Burnett said. “We were able to battle. We were down early. We showed a lot of tenacity and a lot of fight, which is going to help us.”

She wasn’t the only record-setting Hannah, as senior Hannah Murphy celebrated senior day by breaking her own single season record for draw controls. Her 15 in the game gave her 155 this season. The biggest of those came with 1 minute, 56 seconds left after a Mason goal that cut UMass’ lead to 18-17. The Minutewomen never gave up possession again.

“I just wanted to win it, and I wanted our team to win it,” Murphy said. “I just wanted to protect the ball and protect our field.”

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UMass won despite an outstanding effort by GMU freshmen goalie Melissa Semkiw, who made 19 saves. She turned back two Minutewoman free possession shots in the first minute of the game to set an early tone. Buoyed by those stops, the Patriots attacked. They scored the game’s first five goals to put UMass on its collective heels.

After their defense forced a possession-clock violation, the Minutewomen seemed to shake of their early woes. Led by Burnett, who had three first-half goals, UMass went on a 6-1 run to tie the game 6-6.

But Mason scored the last three goals of the half to take a 9-6 lead at intermission.

GMU scored a man-down goal 1:12 into the second half, but UMass scored three straight to cut its deficit to 10-9. But Mason had another answer with three consecutive goals of its own to push its edge back to 13-9.

The pendulum swung back to the Minutewomen, as Kiley Anderson scored the first and last goals in a 5-0 run that put UMass ahead for the first time, 14-13, but Mason scored back-to-back goals to grab the lead back one last time with 11:57 left.

But with senior day, the No. 1 seed in the A-10 Tournament and the record streak on the line, the Minutemen surged with a flurry. Thirteen seconds later, Burnett tied the game on a free position shot. Fifty seconds after that, Burnett scored again. Holly Turner deposited her fourth goal of the game with 10:40 left giving UMass three goals in 64 seconds and a 17-15 lead.

Both teams’ offenses were quiet until Burnett stretched the home team’s edge to 18-15 with 3:42 left. The Patriots had one surge left scoring twice in the final three minutes before Murphy’s game-clinching draw control.

After freshman Lauren Hiller struggled for UMass, making three saves while allowing 13 goals in 41:43, Aileen Kelly stopped three shots (four goals against) in the final 18:17.

“(Aileen) had a couple great saves. She’s done that before,” McMahon said.

UMass (13-3, 8-0) closes the regular season at Duquesne, Saturday at noon.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage

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