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February 21, 2017

Minutewomen begin a six-game road stint beginning this weekend

Having played five of its seven games at home this season, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has yet to face a long road trip. That changes this weekend as UMass begins a six-game road stint stretching into April.

First on the calendar for the Minutewomen (3-4) is Stony Brook, which UMass takes on Saturday. Then, the Minutewomen will remain in New York and head to the state’s capital the following Saturday to face Albany to round out the spring break schedule.

UMass is coming off a win against Yale to snap its three-game losing streak during its four-game homestand. Behind a strong defense and a possession-controlling offense, the Minutewomen seized the 9-5 win against the Bulldogs (1-3).

Sophomores Nina Sarcona and Jesse O’Donnell as well as junior Jackie Lyons accounted for all of UMass’ scoring to lead the way. Lyons scored a pair of goals and added two assists, while Sarcona and O’Donnell each recorded hat tricks with three and four goals, respectively.

“[Last game] was a huge win, [Yale] was a team with a different style of game and we looked to adapt to that and still come up with the win,” UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said. “Going on the road will be a lot tougher but the last win helps up heading to Stony Brook.”

The Seawolves, meanwhile, begin a three-game home stretch after playing three of their five games this season on the road. In its last two outings, Stony Brook fell against Johns Hopkins and American to drop to 1-4 this spring. In their only win, the Seawolves had their best offensive performance to defeat Duquesne, 16-8.

The biggest problem for the Seawolves this year has been a drop in production from the first half to the second half of games. Stony Brook’s inconsistencies have produced 28 goals in the first period and only 18 goals in the second period. Its shot opportunities have also declined by 17 in the second half while its opponents’ shots have increased by the same number.

In its last meeting with the Seawolves nearly a year ago, UMass outshot Stony Brook 34-16 en route to a 14-9 win. Then-sophomore Haley Smith scored a career-high six goals to lead the Minutewomen attack, including a pair of scores in the second half to spark a four-goal run.

Regardless of the Seawolves’ struggles this season, Venechanos isn’t overlooking them.

“Stony Brook is a really good team and they’ve been on the road a bunch,” Venechanos said. “They’ve been playing a lot and they’re battle tested, so it’s going to be another tough matchup.”

Albany will enter the matchup with UMass having played only four games, with two of those contests (Siena, Canisius) coming in the week leading up to the Minutewomen.

In their two games so far this season, the Great Danes suffered a closely-contested 17-14 loss to Hofstra on the road before exploding on offense for a 24-2 win over Niagara at home.

Albany has averaged 34 shots a game and has been efficient with its chances, holding a .559 shot percentage. Despite its success on offense, Albany has been dominated by its opponents on draw controls, amassing 22 and allowing 38.

The last occasion when the Minutewomen and the Great Danes met was back in 2007 in UMass’ first-ever home game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Behind nine goals in the second half, the Minutewomen earned a 15-7 win to improve to 6-0 all-time against Albany.

Rather than vacation, UMass will get back to work this spring break as it looks for a pair of wins against Stony Brook and Albany on the road.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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