The women’s lacrosse team fell to a 9-3 record with the loss to UMBC. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)
Wicked Blue Field saw playoff-caliber lacrosse in the month of March as the UMass Lowell women’s lacrosse team faced off against the University of Maryland – Baltimore County Retrievers.
The stakes did not seem too high, initially. UMass Lowell came into the Friday matinee match against UMBC with a 3-6 overall record. UMBC, however, sailed in with an 8-3 record. Both teams looked for their first conference win of the season.
What ended up ensuing was an exciting game rife with goals, fouls and stoppages in play, with Wicked Blue Field and dozens of River Hawk and Retriever faithful serving as witnesses. The result came to a hard-fought 9-7 loss for the River Hawks after several harrowing shifts in momentum.
“We are actually really happy,” said UMass Lowell head coach Carissa Medeiros. “It’s hard to say that when you come out on the losing end of something, but what we’ve been trying to get through to our girls is it’s not about the [win], it’s not about the [loss]. It’s about the effort, the execution, the energy.”
The drama was best represented by sophomore attack/midfielder Cameron McKelvin’s buzzer-beating goal at the end of the first half. Officials had added an additional three seconds onto the clock to account, and McKelvin took a mere two seconds to jam her seventh goal of the season home.
The River Hawks had come off of a commanding 11-6 win against Central Connecticut State just two days earlier and came back to Lowell fully prepared to keep the momentum going. UMBC presented a well-matched challenge.
UMBC commanded a three-goal lead halfway through the second half, as they began to fully assert themselves at Wicked Blue. The River Hawks were left chasing the play instead of controlling it as they had done in the first half.
Junior midfielder Kendyl Finelli would not accept that. With just under fifteen minutes to play in regulation she rejuvenated the River Hawks’ hope with her second goal of the match.
Under a minute later, senior attack Austin Trasatti scored for the River Hawks. This goal was also her second of the match, and it sparked UMBC to call a timeout with 13:53 left to play.
Retrievers junior attack Sara Moeller had her own Finelli moment, though, and scored her second of the game two minutes later to lengthen the UMBC lead to two with just over eleven minutes left.
The remaining minutes were rife with tension as it became clear once more that either team could come out with the win. UMass Lowell’s sophomore midfielder Hana Caster slammed in a free position goal with just under five minutes remaining to bring the game to 9-7; the final buzzer seemed so far away, so uncertain.
It was just like the UMass Lowell River Hawks liked it. Riveting.
“We have shown that we belong in this game, for sure,” said Medeiros.
UMass Lowell’s senior goalkeeper Courtney Barrett came away with 10 saves and produced more than a handful of highlight-worthy stops. Kelsey Major, the goalkeeper for the Retrievers had five saves.
“Courtney brought a ton of leadership. She was really focused… she was dialed in,” said Medeiros. Barrett was also praised for being more vocal to her teammates and making some saves that she had not been in past games.
“She was definitely the anchor,” said Medeiros.
By the end of the first 30 minutes, both teams scored four goals. Junior attack Rebecca Idson opened the scoring with her fifth goal of the season, assisted by Finelli.
Finelli was one of the River Hawks’ strongest players of the early evening, tallying two goals and two assists. She went head to head with UMBC’s senior midfielder Caitlin Miller, who was an offensive dynamo, opening the scoring for the Retrievers and initiating several key plays.
“[Finelli] is just lights-out playing like an all-around [Division I] player. She limited her turnovers… she made some hustle plays, she’s our best ball carrier… she does some amazing things and stays composed,” said Medeiros.
Finelli and Barrett’s supreme leadership on the field motivated their teammates to push ahead throughout the entire sixty minutes. This was seen at its best in the closing minutes of the game and much of the first half.
Aside from two UMBC goals being scored in a row, the first half was full of back-and-forth action. The first half was full of a power struggle between the Retrievers and the River Hawks.
UMass Lowell controlled possession of the ball for the first several minutes, but UMBC was not about to take any of that without wresting play back in their end. Likewise, UMass Lowell was having none of that.
The result of that dynamic was sixty minutes of dazzling play on both ends, but especially on the part of the River Hawks.
Medeiros credited the team’s 12-person defense as a particular strength in the game against the Retrievers. “[The team] takes a lot of pride in cutting the time of possession. They are doing a great job.”
Any UMass Lowell goal was quickly answered by one from UMBC, and vice versa. The first half featured several dazzling offensive sequences by both teams. Once either team received the ball, it was difficult for the opponent to break up the ensuing play.
Medeiros said that she thought that her team did remarkably well playing “offensive-minded on defense,” with the opposite effect on offensive play. This contributed to the constant back-and-forth struggles between the River Hawks and the Retrievers to regain play in their favor.
Despite the domination that happened after the play was clear, there were several momentum-changing turnovers. UMBC and UMass Lowell had a respective 9 and eleven turnovers in the first half. Finelli’s goal came on an exhilarating effort sparked by a UMBC turnover.
The second half veered mostly in the favor of the Retrievers but the River Hawks reminded them that the game was not done yet as the minutes dwindled down. They answered UMBC’s speed with energy and gumption – with a few fouls sprinkled in here or there, which Medeiros was not particularly thrilled about but accepted that it was just one of those games.
“It was a physical game on both ends,” said Medeiros. “When you’re playing physical and you’re playing with heart… sometimes that happens.”
By the end of the sixty minutes, the River Hawks came out with a loss but lessons learned in how to proceed with their season.
“If we play like this for the remainder of the season, I’m looking forward to a really, really great conference run,” said Medeiros. “I think that this is a statement game for us.”
UMass Lowell will travel to New Hampshire for a Wednesday afternoon conference game and return to Lowell for the weekend. Play against the University of Hartford kicks off at Wicked Blue Field at 1 p.m., and Medeiros said that the UMass Lowell women’s lacrosse team is ready for it.
“We’ve arrived, but we have to be able to string together multiple sixty minute games. That’s the next milestone for us.”