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UMass ends NCAA tournament drought, beats UConn in women’s lacrosse first round

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It had been 29 years, almost to the day, since the University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team had won an NCAA tournament game.

The waiting ended Friday night, even if it took a little extra time.

After enduring a lengthy lightning delay, the Minutewomen responded quickly after the break and withstood all Connecticut comeback attempts to score a 14-10 win over the Huskies at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.

“For us to come out of that lightning delay and score a few goals and put a little distance between us and them really gave us momentum throughout the rest of the game,” said UMass coach Angela McMahon. “I’m really proud of them. On both ends of the field, on defense, on offense, both really stepped up and made big plays.”

UMass will face the host and seventh-seeded Nittany Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday in the second round. Penn State beat Canisius 14-13 in the day’s first contest.

The last official NCAA victory for the Minutewomen was May 12, 1984 – long before anyone on the team was born. They had earned play-in victories the last few seasons, but they were not part of the NCAA bracket.

“It feels great,” said UMass attacker Sam Rush, who scored four goals. “This team has worked really hard and coming in here today we wanted to win. That was our main focus, our main goal, thinking about today’s game, this team and winning today.”

Katie Ferris also netted four goals, Lauren Terracciano and Tanner Guarino each scored twice, and Cori Murray and Melissa Carelli each added one for UMass. Murray and Terracciano assisted on two goals and one each came from Guarino and Courtney McGrath. Among Guarino’s scores was her 100th career point.

Kacey Pippett and Lauren Kahn each tallied four goals for the Huskies (13-5) with Alexandra Crofts and Morgan O’Reilly each adding one. Carly Palmucci picked up two assists with one apiece for Emily Anderson and Crofts.

The teams had been trading goals throughout most of the first period but the skies darkened and flashes of lightning appeared on the horizon, with officials halting play with 15:36 left in the first half.

The teams and fans were herded into an adjacent building to sit out the storm, with both squads trying to stay loose playing games and socializing. After a delay of an hour and 17 minutes, play resumed. Kahn scored the first goal to tie the game at 3-3, but the Minutewomen rolled off four straight and five of six to close the half for an 8-4 margin at the break. Rush scored two of the goals, and one each came from Murray, Guarino and Terracciano.

“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Rush said, “so to be able to come out strong and be able to go on a run when we did come out, they’re tough team and we stayed really focused during the delay.”

After another 10 minute break for halftime, UConn tried to rally with two quick goals for O’Reilly and Kahn, but the Huskies could never cut the margin to less than two goals, and there was always a response.

Rush and Ferris, who now have 65 and 50 goals on the season, respectively, quickly answered those UConn goals to take the lead back to four, and the teams essentially alternated the rest of the way.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Huskies coach Katie Woods said. “You want to gain control of the momentum right away and you want to keep it, but they’re a very good team.”

At 13:03, Carly Palmucci raced behind the net and found Pippett for a score to cut it to three as UConn again tried to grab momentum, but Minutewomen goalie Jamie Schiloski stopped three solid Husky shot attempts moments later and UMass took the ball the other way with Terracciano finding the net for her 36th goal of the season.

“That was huge and at that portion of the game we needed her,” said McMahon, who beat UConn for the first time facing the team since she was the Huskies’ coach. “They were getting some really good looks on cage there.”

Schiloski made six saves to preserve the win as UMass outshot UConn 27-19.

“That was a huge momentum changer,” Schiloski said of the flurry of attempts. “We got that goal and it gave us a whole new boost of confidence. It made me feel good too because I was getting peppered.”

The end result was one for the books for the Minutewomen.

“It came down to who wanted it more,” Rush said. “We came out, we knew we needed to make defensive stops, transition the ball and score goals, and we did just that.”

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