'Cats falter at home opener
The atmosphere at Memorial Feld was full of angst and anticipation on Saturday as the No. 14 University of Massachusetts-Amherst women's lacrosse team defeated the University of New Hampshire handily in the Wildcats' home opener.
The match was touted to be an early test for a developing 'Cats team whose three coaches - Sarah Albrecht, Eileen Finn and Jesse O'Donnell - were actively involved with the UMass program last season.
From the opening draw, Massachusetts was an offensive force that the Wildcat defense struggled to cope with. After UNH was able to tie the game at four goals for each side early in the first half, UMass became even more aggressive, tallying four unanswered goals before halftime to lead 8-4.
After the half, Massachusetts showed no signs of slowing down, scoring 10 goals in the second half while the Wildcats were held to five goals following the break. UMass was also dominant in draw controls for the second half, Massachusetts head coach Angela McMahon noted.
"(The game) came down to possession and our ability to win draws," McMahon said following the game.
Katie Farris (three goals, three assists) and Sam Rush (four goals) were dominant in the offensive end and unleashed a barrage of shots on UNH goaltender Kathleen O'Keefe (five saves, 11 goals allowed) to build a lead that the Wildcats could not match.
UMass's stalwart offense was complimented by the play of goaltender Rachel Vallarelli (six saves, eight goals allowed) who made a difference with difficult saves at key stages throughout the game. While the shot count remained close (30-22 in favor of UMass), it was high-octane defense that kept UNH from converting on set opportunities.
The Wildcats' senior captain Jenny Simpson (two goals, one assist) was able to capitalize on chances while setting up teammates. Laura McHoul also showed promise on offense for UNH, recording three of her team's nine goals.
"(McMahon) and I are good friends. I knew what we were up against," Albrecht said after the game. "UMass is always a big rival for UNH, but now we have to build on this game."
On Wednesday, UNH will play its next game at Dartmouth, which gives the Wildcats a chance to improve upon Saturday's loss.
"When we play Dartmouth, we have to look at the little things and execute ground balls and draw controls...while working to capitalize on offensive opportunities," Albrecht said.
Despite UNH's record (0-2), there has been clear improvement and promise that Albrecht plans to build on, reiterating her appreciation for the Wildcats' underdog status.
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