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AMHERST, Mass. – Against its stiffest competition yet, the University of Colorado lacrosse team fell 17-4 to No. 9 Massachusetts here Friday.

“We knew going into the game that it was going to be a good challenge for us,” CU head coach Ann Elliott said. “UMass is a great team. They’re very athletic at every position. They’re well coached. We knew we were going to have to play together to compete. UMass came out strong, and we came out a little hesitant.

I thought as the game went on, we were able to continue to improve as things went on. I think when you play a good team like that, it comes down to ‘Can you do the little things?’ You turn over the ball as many times as we did and you’re going to pay for it on the back end.”

UMass proved early why it is one of the nation’s best, scoring 12 first half goals, and holding CU to a season-low 13 shots, while taking 31 of its own. UMass also took the lead in ground balls (14 to 11) and edged CU in draw controls (12 to 10). The Minutewomen also caused 12 of the Buffs’ 20 turnovers.

CU took away some opportunities for the Minutewomen in the second half, holding UMass to five goals in the final 30 minutes. CU also outshot UMass nine to eight, scooped up two more ground balls (seven to five) and controlled more draws (five to two) in the second half.

Despite its early disadvantages, Colorado played its cleanest game yet, recording just nine fouls (the previous low was 25 against Temple on March 4). CU had the upper-hand in saves, with Paige Soenksen grabbing 10 saves to the UMass duo of Rachel Vallarelli and Leigh Henjes total of seven.

For the third consecutive game, Cali Castagnola led the Buffaloes. The rookie attack scored both of her goals in the second half, sent all three of her shots on goal and also had a team-high two caused turnovers.

UMass had eight different players net goals, with three recording hat tricks: seniors Katie Ferris, Melissa Carelli and Tanner Guarino.  

With the win, UMass improves to a perfect 7-0. Through four home games this season and 10 in 2013, head coach Angela McMahon, Elliott’s former teammate at Northwestern, has helped her Minutewomen remain perfect in Amherst.

Colorado sees its three-game winning streak come to an end, and falls to 4-3 overall, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. All three of CU’s defeats have been to teams ranked or receiving votes in the IWLCA poll. CU has now been held to a season-low four goals by two ranked teams (the first time was at then-No. 18 Denver).   

UMass jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the first minute’s end. Facing her father’s alma mater, Colorado sophomore Sarah Lautman was the first Buff to score. With 27:45 remaining, Lautman, assisted by Katie Macleay, cut their deficit to the lowest it would be for the remainder of the game. Lautman has now scored at least one goal in each of the past four games.

In just over 10 minutes, UMass scored seven more goals to take a 9-1 lead by the first half’s midway mark. An unassisted Amelia Brown finally stopped the run, scoring CU’s second with 15:28 remaining. Though Brown helped slow the Minutewomen’s roll, just over eight minutes later, UMass was at it again, closing the half with three more goals to take a dominate 12-2 lead.

Though the Minutewomen put together another 3-0 run to start the second half, CU looked sharper on both sides of the ball in the second half.  

“I think our kids just came out and competed hard,” Elliott said of the second half. “We were able to do a little bit better with the ground balls and the draw controls, which gave us possession of the ball a little bit more. I think that helped us in the second half to have opportunities and limit their opportunities.”

Castagnola scored both of her goals in the second half, bookending two more UMass goals. With 10:40 remaining, she scored off a free position shot. In the final seven seconds, Castagnola netted her 18th of the season off an Amanda Salvadore assist.

“After the game, our message to the girls was just that the little things make a difference. When you’re in competitive games and you play good teams, you have to take care of the ball; you have to do the things you can control. That’s catching a throw and running through ground balls and sliding for draw controls. It’s giving yourself more opportunities than you’re giving the other team. I think we’ll be able to build on that and as we continue to build throughout the season and the year, I think we’ll take from that we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

The Buffs conclude their three-game road trip on Sunday, March 16, facing New Hampshire at 10 a.m. MT.