BALTIMORE– UMBC women's lacrosse sophomore Rachel Benzing (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) helped guide the Retrievers to a big first half, scoring a goal and dishing out three of her four assists in the game en route to a 12-9 victory against Vermont in America East action on Saturday at the UMBC Stadium.
Benzing finished the day with a team-best five points, while senior Kristen Bilney (Ellicott City, Md./Mt. Hebron) registered a pair of free position goals and finished with her fifth hat trick of the season.
The Retrievers pick up their first conference victory of the year and improve to 7-6 (1-2 AEC) on the season, while Vermont (10-4, 1-2 AEC) falls for the second straight game.
UMBC outshot UVM, 16-7, in the opening period and forced the Catamounts into eight turnovers, helping the Retrievers to outscore Vermont, 8-4, in the first half.
Benzing proved to be a threat from behind the net all day, starting with the day's opening goal, as the attacker came from behind the net to finish high against UVM goalkeeper Meg Hopkins. The Retrievers added to the early lead on a dish from Benzing to a cutting Bilney for the score.
UMBC added its third unanswered on a give-and-go with sophomore Alyssa Semones (Westminster, Md./Westminster/Penn State) and senior Shannon Harkey (Purcellville, Va./Loudon Valley/Florida), with Semones finishing in the bottom corner of the net for her 19th of the season.
The Retrievers' pressure continued to force Vermont into turnovers, but junior Jessica Roach was able to get the Catamounts on the board with 19:34 left in the opening period, slotting a shot past UMBC goalkeeper Anna Barnett (Midland, Texas/Midland). A minute later, senior Sydney Mas broke free from the pack for an open shot and score to become UVM's all-time points leader and bring Vermont within one, 3-2.
The Retrievers responded with a pair of scores less than a minute apart, the first coming on a free position shot with 16:38 remaining in the first from Bilney and the second from freshman Mackenzie Reese (Bel Air, Md./John Carroll School), her third in the last three games, to extend UMBC's advantage to three, 5-2.
After each team scored a pair of goals, the Retrievers held possession down the stretch of the opening period and came away with the final goal of the half on a score from junior Abby Wilson (Bel Air, Md./Fallston), to take an 8-4 advantage at the break.
Vermont wasted no time in the second half, as Mas dished a pass to red-shirt junior Marcie Marino for the score 47 seconds into the period. Roach added a score less than a minute later, one of five on the day for the junior, closing the gap to two, 8-6, early in the period. Roach and Mas added two more in the opening seven minutes to eliminate the deficit and tie the contest at eight apiece.
Red-shirt junior Ali Carpenter (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh/Loyola) broke the run with her first of two goals in the second half, giving the Retrievers a lead it would not relinquish. Wilson scored her second of the day on a free position shot 1:28 later to give UMBC some breathing room, 10-8.
The Retrievers added two more scores, one from Bilney and one from Carpenter, but Roach gave the Catamounts life, scoring with 5:35 to go to bring UVM within three, 12-9, but that is as close Vermont would get.
UMBC outshot Vermont, 30-16, in the contest and turned the Catamounts over 10 times. Barnett finished the night with six saves, while Hopkins tallied five saves in the loss.
The Retrievers step out of America East action on Wednesday, April 16 when they travel to take on No. 13/8 Johns Hopkins.