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Cosgrove returns home to face defending champs

Merritt Cosgrove came to play women’s lacrosse at Massachusetts from Carlsbad, Calif., which is a half-hour away from San Diego. Coincidently, the Minutewomen will open up their 2010 season in the same city that the senior calls home, against five-time defending national champion Northwestern.

“I’ve always been in someone else’s climate, someone else’s hometown,” Cosgrove said. “And it’s great to have that and see how excited they get, but I finally get to the opportunity to see my entire family.”

Cosgrove competed for La Costa Canyon High School, where she won Athlete of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the year, while becoming acquainted with an environment that only “America’s Finest City” brings.

“I love it, it’s hopefully going to bring good enough weather,” Cosgrove said.

A former All-San Diego County lacrosse team player, Cosgrove will compete for the first time in California since beginning her college career four years ago.

“It’s the pride of [being] from your area and being able to compete in your home. It’s amazing,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove will enter her home city with a young team by her side, which reminds her of her earlier days of playing in Carlsbad.

“I love having a young team because there’s a lot of spirit,” Cosgrove said. “I mean, some of my best years in high school, in any sport, were with a young team. So I’m excited for everybody, where they’re coming from and the different positions they’re offering.”

When speculation began about the Minutewomen playing in San Diego, Cosgrove could not contain the excitement of possibly having her family watch her compete.

“There were kind of rumors about that it would be happening, as other teams were putting up their schedules,” Cosgrove said. “It was amazing, I’ve never been able to experience that.”

Though it is no surprise that UMass will take on a tough opponent in the Wildcats in its first game of 2010, Cosgrove offered a positive view of tomorrow night’s game.

“It’s going to be a great competition,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve played against them six or seven times throughout my career, and even though they’re really tough, their going to prepare us for the season and we’re only going to go up from there.”

Cosgrove’s first meeting against Northwestern was back in 2007, when like most of the Minutewomen offense, she failed to produce any offensive spark which led to a 14-8 loss to the Wildcats.

It was a similar case in 2008, when an inexperienced Cosgrove could not produce against Northwestern, recording only one turnover and a foul.

Last season, when Cosgrove was named to the 2009 Atlantic 10 All-Tournament and All-Academic Teams, the San Diego native had her best game against the Wildcats when she took three shots on goal and earned a pair of draw controls in an 18-2 loss.

Nearly two months later on May 10, in UMass’ final game of the season, Cosgrove earned three fouls in the contest against Northwestern. She did, however, display her defensive midfield skills with a draw control during the contest.

As one of the most experienced players on the team, Cosgrove looks to lead the Minutewomen to a victory against the Wildcats tomorrow night.

“She’ll play some defense, she’ll play some midfield, she’ll take some runs on attack,” said head coach Alexis Venechanos.

In its five past regular season meetings, UMass is 0-4 against Northwestern, something that the returning-home Cosgrove will look to change.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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