After suffering its second straight loss on Saturday, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will look to improve aspects of its game when it faces New Hampshire this afternoon.
“Our first three games were lop-sided in both directions,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said. “We’re really taking care of those little things: ball possession, running for the ball. [We’re] going through the things that you need to reexamine when we look back at the game tape.”
The loss against the Crimson (1-0) produced three obstacles for the Minutewomen (2-3) to improve on in today’s contest against the Wildcats (2-0).
“We’re trying to get used to each other, we’re trying to get people comfortable in certain spots,” Venechanos said. “It’s a work in progress, and I think we’re getting there.”
In the contest against Harvard, UMass could not match the Crimson in the clears category. Harvard went 10-for-10 in clears, well above the Minutewomen’s 9-for-14 mark. UMass totaled the same amount in clears in its 10-8 loss to No. 10/11 Boston University.
“We were not ten-for-ten, I think we’re more worried about that and we’re worried about what we need to do,” Venechanos said. “A lot of it is timing, getting used to each other, and getting each other’s tendencies. We’ve done a lot of clearing these last couples of days. We’ve been working on making better passes, running for your catches.”
In their first game of the season against Northwestern, the Minutewomen did not clear the ball once during the contest.
During its first two wins of the season, UMass cleared the ball 10 times against Holy Cross and 11 times against Connecticut. When the Minutewomen have failed to earn double-digits in clears, they have gone on to lose the contest.
This season, UNH has had success with clearing the ball, going 23-of-30 in clears in its first two victories of the spring.
In the match against the Crimson, the Minutewomen found themselves down a goal with the ball at midfield. After calling a timeout, the opening pass went wide and UMass suffered one of its 17 turnovers in the contest in what Venechanos called “the theme of the game.”
“We put ourselves in about ten of those situations again,” Venechanos said. “We put two minutes on the clock [at practice] and went through those situations. I told them that we have the ball, it’s not like you need the ball back.”
The Minutewomen have struggled this season with keeping the ball, accounting for 77 turnovers throughout their first five games. Meanwhile, UMass’ opponents have earned 67 in the same category.
“We did the hard work,” Venechanos said. “We usually do the hard work in finishing the play, but that comes with maturity, that comes with experience. It’s hard to simulate those game situations in practice, but I think we did the best we can in these last couple of days.”
Despite Venechanos’ worries about the turnover ratio, UNH has had its own set of faults when it comes to keeping possession.
The Wildcats have committed 34 turnovers in their first two games, an amount that the Minutewomen reached after their third game.
“We got the ball a couple of times,” Venechanos said. “We turned the ball over. That’s what we’ve been reassessing in these close games, every turnover. Everything is a lot more magnified when you play in these one-goal games.”
One key piece of the puzzle for the UMass squad has always come from its belief in draw controls.
Coincidentally, in its last two losses of the season, the Minutewomen were the victors in draw controls. While it was ousted 21-5 in draw controls to Northwestern, which lead to a 18-8 loss, UMass has been successful in the category since.
In the match against the Crusaders, the Minutewomen had 13 more draw controls than their opponents (18-5), and four more than the rival Huskies when they faced them on Feb. 20.
Despite the two losses against the Terriers (1-0) and the Crimson, UMass beat both teams in draw controls by a 13-6 margin and an 11-9 margin, respectively.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.