JERREY ROBERTS Tanner Guarino, right, of the University of Massachusetts, scores while defended by Christy Turner, of Northwestern, Tuesday at McGuirk Stadium.
AMHERST — The last few minutes of the game didn’t feature extended playing time for Northwestern’s walk-ons. There wasn’t a running clock because the margin of the game was too narrow.
The University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team stood toe-to-toe with the perennial national powerhouse and while Tuesday’s 10-6 loss wasn’t a win, unlike most of the teams’ recent meetings, it was respectable.
Prior to Tuesday, the last time UMass stayed within single digits of the Wildcats was 1989. Both teams have discontinued and restarted their programs since then.
But progress wasn’t enough for coach Angela McMahon. The Minutewomen (9-1) entered the game ranked No. 10 in the country with a 31-game home-winning streak on the line dating back to a 2011 loss to these No. 7 Wildcats (5-3). McMahon, a Northwestern alumna, wanted to win.
“The effort was good. With this team, they always work hard, but the execution was clearly lacking,” McMahon said. “If we want to continue to do well and be successful in the long run, we need to clean some things up. Any opportunity to play against a top team like Northwestern is an opportunity to compete. But we didn’t just want to see where we’re at. We wanted to win. Our game plan was to put pressure on them and give ourselves opportunities to score on the offensive end and we didn’t do that today.”
Senior defender Kelsey McGovern offered a similar assessment.
“We didn’t fully rise to the occasion today, but it shows that we’re making strides in the right direction,” she said. “In previous years we’ve kind of been blown out. Today we definitely we weren’t.”
UMass opens Atlantic 10 play against La Salle at McGuirk on April 4 at 4 p.m.
Less than a minute into game, UMass appeared to get off to a good start when Sam Rush’s shot beat Bridget Bianco, but Rush was ruled in the crease, negating the goal. Just 44 seconds later, Northwestern got on the board when Kat DeRonda scored to make it 1-0. The Wildcats notched the next two to make it 3-0 putting UMass in an early hole.
Rush’s next one counted as she scored two of her three goals before halftime to keep the Minutewomen within range at intermission, trailing 5-2.
Northwestern scored the first three goals of the second half to seize control at 8-2, but helped by a brilliant effort by goalie Rachel Vallarelli (eight saves), UMass didn’t let the Wildcats pull away. Goals by Tanner Guarino, Courtney McGrath and Rush allowed the Minutewomen to trim their deficit to 9-5 with 8:01 remaining.
Northwestern effectively slowed the game down after that, controlling possession enough to prevent UMass from truly threatening late.
The Wildcats did a good job of taking Katie Ferris, UMass’ leading scorer this season and all-time, out of the game with a face-guard. She had one assist in the game and didn’t attempt a shot.
“It’s definitely a learning point for us moving forward,” McMahon said. “We wish we didn’t have to use it as a lesson, but we will. We’ll get back to practice and make sure we’re raising the bar.”