After capturing both the Atlantic 10 regular-season and championship titles, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team returns to action this coming Saturday with a young, yet well-adjusted roster.
“I think we’re pretty balanced,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said after Monday’s practice. “I wouldn’t say one part of our game overshadows the other. It’s going to start from getting the ball off the draw.”
“[Being a balanced team] is pretty good as a coach hoping to get deeper towards the end of the year,” Venechanos said.
After a stellar performance in 2009, UMass lost key defender Jackie Rosenzweig, who started all 19 games. Her defensive numbers were unmatched, as she had 20 groundballs, 19 caused turnovers, and five draw controls over the course of the year. The loss of a strong defensive player left a hole in the team that Venechanos hopes to fill.
“We have some people doing a lot more than in years past,” Venechanos said. “We have a lot of people; some of them could play all three positions.”
Though Venechanos explained that the team is still “working out the kinks” in establishing a starting lineup, she did state that there may be some new faces.
The Minutewomen return to McGuirk Stadium with an inexperienced team, which includes eight freshmen.
“Overall, we’re still a young team, but I think we’ve got a lot of returning players, and the freshman that we have coming in are strong, and I think our roster is strong,” returning goalkeeper Katie Florence said.
Both sides of the playing field are solid, with both veterans and new players taking the field. With a strong midfield both offensively and defensively, the Maroon and White plan to use strong team chemistry to claim victory.
“I don’t really think there’s a strongest or weakest, per se,” Florence said. “Everyone kind of feeds off each other. When defense is playing well, it carries up the attack, and same thing when attack is pumping in goals, it excites the defense. It’s kind of a ripple effect. I think over the field we’re looking good and it’s going to carry over to each position.”
“Usually when a team prevails they will be a stronger defensive team or attacking,” senior midfielder Merritt Cosgrove said. “But I feel like we’re really very well-rounded, because every practice we work on both [offense and defense]. We’re really even on both sides.”
With a balanced roster, the Minutewomen are riding into the season with self-assurance on the season ahead.
“I feel confident,” junior Jackie Lyons said. “We’ve been working hard ever since our season ended last year. But we just want to get better every day and we can take bigger steps every year.”
With the starting lineup still up in the air, here is the roster breakdown displayed by position and class.
Seniors: Stephanie Hopkins
Sophomores: Colleen Mulligan, Nina Sarcona, Ryan Gorman
Freshmen: Cori Murray, Sarah Mullen, Kristen Scopetski, Lauren Terracciano
“In attack, we have a lot of great options,” Venechanos said.
Hopkins leads the UMass attack this year. After a career-threatening ankle injury sidelined Hopkins for the rest of her freshman year (totaling 9 goals, 2 assists), she stepped up in 2009 with 33 goals in 46 games.
Hopkins will be assisted by Mulligan who last year started five of her 11 games played, netting two goals to add to the Minutewomen scoring efforts.
Seniors: Merritt Cosgrove
Juniors: Haley Smith, Nazy Kerr, Jackie Lyons
Sophomores: Dayna Defliese, Danielle Pelletier, Ali Houlis, Jesse O’Donnell
Freshmen: Kelsey Palmer, Megan Connolly, Jordan Renna
“Midfield will be pretty fast this year like in years past,” Venechanos said. “We’re going to ask them to do a lot of scoring and defending and passing. We’re asking them to kind of be connectors in the midfield, get some groundballs for us. They’re going to have their hands on some more roles in attacking defense.”
Leading the offense is Lyons, who led the team in scoring and assists (44 goals, 27 assists), and was a first-team All-Conference selection in the A-10 last year.
Having played both midfield and attack, Lyons doesn’t rate one position higher than the other.
“I think our midfield and attack are really strong, I don’t think either one of [them] is stronger,” Lyons said. “We rely on each other to get through games, it can’t just be our midfield playing a good game, or our attack playing a good team. I think the whole team is really strong, even defensively.”
Sophomores: Riley Perry
Freshmen: Brittany Schoen, Brianna Concialdi
Two of the three Minutewomen defenders are freshmen. The lone upperclassman is Perry, who played and started all 19 games last season. She had 16 groundballs, 12 draw controls, and caused four turnovers.
Schoen was named the captain of her high school lacrosse team during her senior season. She led Amador Valley High School to win the East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section Championships with nine goals and 73 ground balls.
Concialdi, out of Yorktown High School in Cortland Manor, New York, joins UMass after winning the All-Elite Award in 2008 and 2009. She led her high school to the state semi-finals and regional championship last season.
Seniors: Leslie Barber
Sophomores: Katie Florence
Freshman: Christina Fey
Returning to stand in-between the goal posts is Florence (known as “Flo” to her teammates). In her rookie year, Florence achieved an 11-8 record while also obtaining All-Rookie team honors.
“Her experience in game situations, and she actually played a little bit of international at tryouts, is really important for us in the back,” Venechanos said on Florence. “It gives our defense a lot more options and ability to take some chances, because they know they have Florence back there.”
Also in the net for the Minutewomen is Barber, who played in three games last season, and totaled a 12.04 goals against average with a .400 save percentage.
New to the goalkeepers this year is Fey, who hails from Kings Park High School. Fey received the All-League, Rookie of the Year, and New York State Scholar Athlete awards in 2006. In her senior year, Fey was the team MVP and captain.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.