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Acton’s McGovern, Framingham’s Guarino fueling 13-1 start for UMass women’s lacrosse

McGovern, Guarino
power UMass Amherst

Kelsey McGovern , a defender out of Acton-Boxborough Regional High, has worked the draw control to near perfection while taking on the opposition’s top offensive players.

Tanner Guarino, a speedy midfielder from Framingham who keeps things loose when the going gets tough, is a multidimensional threat on both sides of the ball.

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Now senior cocaptains on the powerhouse women’s lacrosse team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the two first met when they were 14 years old.

Both played with the touring Mass. Elite summer team through their junior year of high school.

“We’re close friends and as captains we’re definitely on the same page,’’ said McGovern, who broke the program record for career draw controls (194) during a 22-2 victory over George Mason on Sunday.

“Tanner is our go-to person when we need a lift, always smiling or saying something funny, and I’m a lead-by-example player,’’ she said.

“Both of us are dedicated to the program, we want to make sure our younger players feel welcome, and we’re excited to see just how far we can go.’’

The Minutewomen — who have won the Atlantic-10 Conference championship and advanced to the NCAA Division 1 tournament each season under four-year head coach Angela McMahon, a former standout at Weston High — are 13-1 overall (4-0 conference) heading into Saturday’s game at Richmond.

A midfielder in high school and through most of her sophomore year at UMass, McGovern showed what leadership was all about last season.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, McGovern was sidelined during the conference tournament, but took the field for faceoffs in two NCAA tourney games.

“I’d take the draw and then limp off,’’ recalled McGovern, who underwent surgery a month later.

McMahon, a two-time captain at Northwestern University, was head coach at the University of Connecticut when she successfully recruited Acton’s McGovern, a 65-goal scorer her senior year of high school.

“I left for UMass but we had a positive connection. I’m glad she came here because Kelsey made an immediate impact and has steadily improved,’’ said McMahon.

“What she does on the field is absolutely invaluable because she gives us ball possession, and she’s an aggressive defender and great communicator who is peaking at just the right time.’’

McGovern, who set the program’s single-season mark for draw controls last year, said former teammate Nina Sarcona, the previous record holder, helped improve her faceoff technique.

“And running track and playing soccer in high school helped with my anticipation and quickness,’’ added McGovern, who has also chipped in with 11 forced turnovers. “I don’t expect to win every draw, but it’s important to get at least 60 percent of them, so I do a lot of reps in practice.’’

Guarino, four career games shy of the program record (80), has been making plays all over the field. She was third in scoring with 30 points (22 goals, 8 assists), first in caused turnovers (19), second in ground balls (25), and fifth in draw controls (16).

“I’m a part of everything, which I love,’’ said Guarino, who helped propel Framingham High to the Division 1 state title in 2010. “I’ve always enjoyed playing defense and I’m definitely more comfortable on the attack. I try to fill a positive role and keep our morale up, but I’d never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do.’’

McMahon was an instructor at a summer lacrosse camp run by Framingham High coach Stacey Freda when she first spotted Guarino.

“I knew Stacy because she was my soccer coach at Weston High,’’ said McMahon. “It was Tanner’s first exposure to lacrosse and although she was a skinny kid with zero skills, I immediately felt there was something special about her.

“Now she’s the kind of player who can put the team on her back. When the game’s on the line, you want her with the ball.’’

She did just that her senior year at Framingham, scoring the winner with one second left in the state final against Longmeadow.

Also on the UMass roster: redshirt sophomore attack Katie Ott (Medfield High), a two-time Globe All-Scholastic who had four goals and six assists while playing in all 14 games, and freshman defender Camille Mitjans (Ashland High), who had seen action in five games.

“Katie has a rocket of a shot and is getting some valuable experience,’’ said McMahon, “and Camille, a recruited walk-on, has significantly improved while transitioning from midfield.’’

Here and there

Rico Cabral, a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame who spent most of his head coaching career at Mount Ida College in Newton, has been hired as the head coach at Dean College in Franklin. . .  Bentley University junior Tatiana Froehlich (Newton North) and senior teammate Aubrey Batzinger of Wallingford, Conn., are a record-setting 1-2 punch for the Falcons. Competing on Saturday at the University of New Hampshire, Froehlich posted a school-record, personal-best heave of 109 feet 9 inches in the hammer throw. This spring, Batzinger has twice eclipsed the record set by Froehlich last season at the Northeast-10 Conference championship. . .  Fitchburg State University senior Kerry Alcott (Groton-Dunstable Regional) had a career-high 13 strikeouts while tossing a five-inning no-hitter, in a 17-0 win over Mass. Maritime. Alcott was 5-3 with a 2.24 earned-run average and 87 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. . . Concord’s Jesse Bilafer , a senior second baseman on the women’s softball team at Endicott College in Beverly, hit .514 with two doubles, two triples, a grand slam, and nine RBIs to earn Player of the Week honors in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.
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