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Minutewomen open up four-game home stand

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has its second chance of the season at a nationally-ranked opponent this afternoon, when it takes on Boston University.

“They have the experience,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said. “I told my players today that they’ve been playing together for four years. They bring back that experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we matchup and do against them.”

Just like the other opponents UMass (2-1) has competed against this season, the No. 10 Terriers will open their schedule at McGurik stadium.

“I think we’re learning a lot about our team these last three games, and I think we’re using that to our advantage,” Venechanos said. “We’re learning when to dodge, when to be a feeder and also how to do a little bit of both. I think we bring that experience into the game, and knowing each other a little better and being able to adjust to what defenses are doing to us.”

BU is the third straight opponent to open its schedule against the Minutewomen, with Holy Cross, Connecticut and Northwestern all beginning the 2010 season against UMass.

“I think we were, offensively, a lot more dynamic on Saturday [against UConn] with a lot more assisted goals,” Venechanos said. “On the defensive side of the ball, we’ve seen a lot of styles of play. We’ve seen with fast dodgers, feeders and a team that likes to slow it down.”

The Minutewomen are 12-6 all-time against BU, with the Terriers winning six of the last seven matches between the two teams. The dominance dates back to March of 1999 when BU was victorious over UMass.

“We’re very familiar with them as a team and they bring back a lot of experience,” Venechanos said. “They’ve had a lot of team players that in the past were dangerous, and defensively they have a solid core.”

The two teams met last year on the Terrier’s turf at Nickerson Field, which hosted a 15-5 rout by BU. The match between the two sides was the third of UMass’ season, and was the last of a three-game losing streak that plagued its early schedule. Coincidentally, it was also the Terriers’ first game of the 2009 season.

In the beginning of the contest, both teams kept the game close, leading to a 5-3 halftime score. The second half of the game showed a dominant run by then-No. 10 BU. After play resumed in the second half, the Terriers had a pair of four-goal runs to close out the game and continue the Minutewomen losing streak.

Notably in last year’s game, goalkeeper Katie Florence had 12 saves in the contest. Attacker Jackie Lyons also played well, scoring a pair of goals for the Maroon and White.

BU attacker Xan Weitzel, who had six points in the 2009 game (three goals, three assists), makes her way back to McGurik for today’s battle. Weitzel finished eighth in the nation in assists (39) and third in Terrier’s single season history.

Both the Terriers and the Minutewomen are favorites to repeat as champions of their respective conferences (American East and Atlantic, respectively).

“As a team I think we’ve been getting a lot better and I think going into this game, we know that BU has been the top team in New England the past few years,” Venechanos said. “Our goal is to execute our game plan to the best of our ability.”

Today’s contest will be the first of a four-game home stretch for UMass, which includes games against Harvard, New Hampshire and Yale.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Venechanos said. “We have a lot of games, a quick turn-around, so we’re excited about [today]. We’re hoping to get out there, and we’re just very excited.”

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

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