UMass beats Princeton in OT, advances in NCAA Tournament

  • UMass women’s lacrosse players, from left, Callie Santos (23), Hannah Burnett, Hannah Murphy (17), Kate Farnham (14), Eileen McDonald (37), Abby Walker and Erika Eipp celebrate McDonald’s game-winning overtime goal in their 13-12 win over Princeton in the NCAA Tournament, Friday in Ithaca, New York. COURTESY Darl Zehr Photography

For the Gazette
Published: 5/13/2016 10:03:52 PM

ITHACA, N.Y. — After surviving a potentially heartbreaking moment at the end of regulation and countless anxious ones throughout the first overtime and the beginning of the second one, Eileen McDonald gave the UMass women’s lacrosse team one of the most joyful moments in program history.

Her goal 37 seconds into double overtime gave the Minutewomen a 13-12 win over Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field.

“It was just kind of a motion play,” McDonald said. “We were just looking for whoever was open and I saw an opening, then took it to cage.”

Those openings did not come for the Minutewomen for stretches during the game, including a 23-minute scoreless drought that contributed to UMass’ one-goal deficit with three minutes to play in regulation. With a 14-game winning streak on the line, UMass pushed through.

It will have a chance to push forward to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1984, when just 12 teams made the tournament as opposed to the 26 teams involved in this year’s tournament. The Minutewomen (18-1) face Cornell (14-4) at noon on Sunday.

The Big Red beat Canisius, 15-11, Friday night.

“It wasn’t the perfect game,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said of her first round game. “But in the big moments, when they needed to step up, they did.”

Big moments were abound to put the Minutewomen on top, but with UMass down a goal late in regulation, Holly Turner started the flame that ignited the end of game sequence.

The Tigers held the ball in an attempt to run out the clock, but Princeton’s Kathryn Hallett drifted too far and Turner swooped in to force the turnover. Callie Santos was the beneficiary of the play with her second goal of the game that came just moments after the change of possession.

Draw controls were vital in the contest, and none bigger came after the tying goal when UMass regained the ball for one final chance to win the game in regulation.

“It’s all about the little things,” said McDonald, and those little things contributed to what appeared to be the game’s winning goal when Hannah Murphy fed Santos for her third goal with 17 seconds left on the clock.

Unfortunately for UMass, it lost the draw control after the tally, then committed a foul with 14 seconds left to play and the ball near midfield. Princeton found minimal room to operate, but Nonie Anderson threw a Hail-Mary type pass toward the net, which found Olivia Hompe for a goal with just 0.8 seconds left to even the score at 12.

Emotions did not take over for the veteran Minutewomen and the group was able to settle down before overtime.

“We’ve been focused all season on bouncing back from any goals or any plays that have been off,” McDonald said. “We try to think about it as a bounce back from every play, not so much in the grand scheme of things.”

UMass held control of the ball to start the extra session, but was unable to score, which forced the Minutewomen into their most crucial defensive stand of the season.

“Overtime is tough with it being sudden death now,” McMahon said. “I thought we had a great stand on defense of holding them and they’re such a talented team.”

The defensive stand was made possible thanks to goalkeeper Aileen Kelly, who made a season-saving stop from just a few feet out to keep the Tigers off the board and force a second overtime session.

UMass controlled the ball to start the second overtime as well, but daylight was more prevalent this time around, which led to McDonald’s goal.

“In those scenarios, we were able to find some good looks and we’re confident in all of our attackers and their ability to score goals, they’ve been doing it all season long,” McMahon said.

The attack group was led by Erika Eipp, who finished with four goals and two assists.

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