NEWTON — The University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team’s red-hot offense went cold at the worst possible time.
UMass struggled to generate much of anything on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Minutewomen fell, 10-4, to Loyola of Maryland at Boston College.
It was the first UMass (18-2) loss since March 25. Loyola (15-5) moves on to play Boston College (14-5), which beat Bryant 17-9.
Senior Sam Rush scored twice to set the UMass single-season goal record at 67. But it was the absence on the score sheet of another record holder, senior Katie Ferris, that ended up being a harbinger of trouble for the Minutewomen. Ferris, the program’s all-time leading scorer 211 points, was stymied throughout the game by a tough, physical Loyola defense.
“Their defense was definitely more high-pressure, and it was a different style than we’ve seen,” Ferris said.
Hannah Schmitt led the way for Loyola with three goals, while Sydney and Annie Thomas each had a pair.
The Greyhounds never trailed in the game, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 5 minutes, 29 seconds. The Minutewomen caught their breath and started to gain some offensive control, playing a slow-down game that set up a Rush goal to make it 2-1 at the 9:21 mark of the first half.
The teams traded goals for the rest of the half. Loyola went up 3-1 on Annie Thomas’ first of the day two minutes later. Amy Tiernan found Courtney McGrath cutting for a back-door goal to bring UMass to within one with 13:39 to go in the half, but then the Minutewomen allowed the Greyhounds a long possession, leading to three free-position attempts within 1:17.
Schmitt cashed in on the third try to make it 4-2, and although Melissa Carelli pounced on a rebound to give UMass some life with 6:51 left in the first half, it was 4-3 when the horn sounded.
The Minutewomen were still largely in it at halftime, but it was obvious that Loyola had the UMass attack’s number. Throughout the first 30 minutes, the Greyhounds sat back and waited for the Minutewomen to try to get close to the net, and UMass struggled to break through, held to just 14 shots on goal in the game.
“When you’re down you have to be a little more aggressive,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “We struggled with getting separation, and a lot of our shots were coming from outside.”
When the Minutewomen did find a way to the net, Loyola goaltender Molly Wolf was there to make the save more often than not. The sophomore finished with 10 saves.
“That’s a big part of our defense, we want to be tough,” said Loyola senior Marlee Paton. “And then we had Molly coming up with big saves. We really had that trust in one another.”
Loyola poured it on in the second half, quickly jumping out to a 7-3 lead on goals from Sydney Thomas, Kara Burke and Annie Thomas before UMass could answer with a strike from Rush with 16:11 to go. Rush’s goal ended a 20:40 scoring drought for UMass that stretched back to the first half.
The Minutewomen didn’t score again.
On the other end, the Loyola offense picked up steam in the second half as the Minutewomen started to lose shape and discipline, committing a bevy of fouls as they tried to stay on top of Loyola attackers.
“When you play the type of defense we play, if it’s for too long, you’re making yourself vulnerable,” McMahon said.
Ali Habicht, Taryn VanThof and Schmitt added goals over the final 10 minutes for Loyola.
The loss brought an abrupt end to UMass’ fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance, and the fifth in six years. It’s a bittersweet end for the Minutewomen, who have become a perennial contender after 25 years without an appearance, but who are still looking to advance past the second round for the first time since 1984.
It also puts an end to the careers of Ferris, Rush, McGrath, Carelli, Taylor Guarino, Shannon Defliese and Kelsey Sheridan, who together authored arguably the best four-year run in the program’s history.
“They couldn’t have done any more than what they were doing,” McMahon said. “We couldn’t ask any more of them.”