Balanced Offense Lifts Women's Lacrosse to 11-8 Victory Against George Mason

ALLY STAGER

DURHAM, N.H.Amber Casiano (South Windsor, Conn.), JoJo Curro (Amherst, N.H.) and Kate Keagins (Bay Shore, N.Y.) each recorded two goals and an assist to lead the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team to Monday afternoon's 11-8 non-conference victory against George Mason University at Memorial Field.

UNH extended its winning streak to three games to improve to 4-2 overall, while George Mason lost its third consecutive game to fall to 1-6.

In addition to the aforementioned triumvirate, Ilana Cohen (Andover, Mass.; one goal, one assist) and Ally Stager (Reading, Mass.; two goals) finished with multiple points.  Stager , who was named the America East Player of the Game, also contributed three ground balls, two caused turnovers and two draw controls, all of which tied for team highs.

UNH goalkeeper Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.) made four saves and Mason counterpart Brittany Pastrana was credited with 14 saves, including eight in the second half. The Patriots' offense was led by Emily Ellisen and Caitlin Formato with three goals apiece.

George Mason controlled the opening draw and Formato cut through the right side of the fan to score at 29:30 to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.

Cohen pulled the 'Cats even on a free-position goal at 24:13, then Stager finished Curro's feed from behind the net to give UNH a 2-1 lead at 20:59.

Mason called time out at 13:22 and regained the lead, 3-2, when Ellisen netted unassisted goals 31 seconds apart– at 12:49 and 12:18.

New Hampshire scored the next three goals, however, to take a lead it would not relinquish. Keagins' first goal of the game – the 50th of her career – leveled the score at 3. Casiano then executed an acrobatic leap, catch and shoot on the right side of the fan to give UNH a 4-3 advantage; Cohen made the pass from deep on the right wing to set up the tally. Stager then drove from the top of the fan and ripped a high, hard shot into the goal to extend the lead to 5-3 at 2:21.

Formato was awarded a free position in the closing minute and scored on that opportunity to close the first-half scoring with 32 seconds on the clock.

UNH's Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.) gained possession of the opening draw control in the second half. Pastrana made a save against Curro, but the 'Cats retained possession and Keagins scored at 28:12 to reestablish a two-goal margin of 6-4.

The Patriots once again pulled within one goal when Allie Hilderbrandt drove from the top of the fan at 23:03. The Wildcats called a timeout at that point and soon thereafter scored goals 68 seconds apart to take an 8-5 lead. Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.) rolled from behind the net around the left post and continued towards the middle, but then pivoted back to the left post and scored on a high shot at 20:39. Casiano split a pair of defenders at the top-right of the fan, drove towards the cage and fired a shot into the net at 19:31.

Mason called time out at that point and, after the teams exchanged a pair of possessions, Anna Kopecka scored a free-position goal at 15:56 to trim the deficit to 8-6.

UNH regained momentum, however, on Curro's second goal of the game at 13:34. From the top-left side of the fan, Casiano lobbed a pass over the defense to a cutting Curro low on the near side, and she scored on a one-timer to give the Wildcats a 9-6 advantage.

Two minutes later, the 'Cats took control of the game with goals 12 seconds apart. Allie Duclos (South Windsor, Conn.), who was also credited with three ground balls, one caused turnover and one ground ball, received a pass as she cut from the left side to the center and ripped a shot inside the right post to give UNH a 10-6 lead at 11:34.  Keagins gained control of the ensuing draw and found Curro cutting alone behind the defense. Curro scored on a close-range shot to advance the score to 11-6.

Pastrana kept George Mason's deficit at five goals when she denied Keagins at 9:41 and 7:45. The teams then exchanged possession multiple times before Formato netted a free-position goal at 2:11. Kopecka won the draw control and Ellisen converted a Madalyn Jamison pass into a goal just 22 seconds later to give Mason hopes of a comeback at 11-8 with 1:49 remaining.

UNH quelled the rally, however, when Keagins won the draw control and the 'Cats maintained possession the rest of the way.

Cohen has recorded multiple points all six games this season, while Rausch extended her point-scoring streak to 23 games and Keagins' point streak was pushed to 14.

UNH recorded the advantage in shots (31-14), ground balls (12-6) and draw controls (11-10).

New Hampshire returns to action March 16 (6 p.m. Eastern) at nationally-ranked Vanderbilt University and battles Presbyterian College in Atlanta on March 18 (4 p.m.). The Wildcats' next home game is April 6 (4 p.m.) against Boston University.

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