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McMahon becomes head coach

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Angela McMahon, former player and assistant coach for the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team, seeks a trip to the finals as a head coach this time around.

McMahon took the head coaching job on July 9 and has since spent her time settling down in a community she is very familiar with.

“I love being here. I think it’s a great community both locally and within the university, everyone’s so supportive of all the different programs,” McMahon said.

She will replace former head coach Alexis Venechanos, who fled to Ohio State for head coach position following the Minutewomen’s second-consecutive conference championship.

McMahon spent her freshman season at UMass as a member of the lacrosse team, before transferring to Northwestern. She helped rebuild Northwestern’s previously dormant program into a powerhouse. In 2007, she found herself back in Amherst, this time as an assistant coach on Venechanos’ staff.

Two years later, she landed the women’s lacrosse head coaching job at Connecticut. Again she rebuilt a stagnant program, but this time as a coach.

“It was a great experience for me to get my feet wet, having to go through the experience of building a program from the ground up,” McMahon said.

She came to the rescue of a Huskies team that had gone 1-15 before her arrival. McMahon helped UConn improve its record to 3-13 in her first season. The following year, the Huskies completed their first winning season since 2007, going 9-8, all while competing in the powerful Big East conference.

McMahon’s current situation contrasts her stint with UConn in every way.

For starters, the Minutewomen have won the last two A-10 titles and were elected preseason favorites to repeat this season. No rescue mission is necessary here.

Secondly, having worked with the team in 2007 and 2008, McMahon is familiar with some of the leaders of a relatively inexperienced team that features a whopping 16 freshman and sophomores.

The lone seniors on the team, Nazy Kerr, Haley Smith and Jackie Lyons, have all spent time with McMahon as a coach.

“Angela was my assistant coach freshman year so for the seniors it’s kind of like a flashback,” Lyons said.

“Jackie, Nazy, and I have had her, so it’s good to see a familiar face,” Smith said.

She also had a hand in recruiting many of the juniors. Unfortunately, she left before any of them had the privilege of playing under her.

“I love her,” said junior goalie Katie Florence. “She recruited me and having her back is awesome, Sarah Albrecht and Eileen [Finn] are great too, as a unit, they’re really great coaches.”

McMahon herself was thrilled to receive the opportunity to coach players she has recruited in the past few years.

“To be able to come back and help them elevate their game and see how much they have grown since I left has been great,” McMahon said.

When McMahon was given the job, she hired Finn as her assistant coach. Finn attended Syracuse where she was a standout defensive player on the lacrosse team before graduating in 2010. McMahon talked about Finn’s contributions to the team thus far.

“She’s been doing a great job on the defensive end. She’s been helping Sarah [Albrecht] be more innovative with our defense and coming up with some new ideas and brainstorming some tactics defensively,” McMahon said.

“She’s very smart, she’s great in the office, very technologically savvy, well organized, and very well spoken,” McMahon said.

Most of UMass’ success will be contingent on transitions from the previous year. McMahon agreed that team leadership and chemistry would certainly be an integral part of this team’s success.

“I think that through spending time together both on and off the field they just create tighter bonds and better relationships,” McMahon said. “We’re trying to put a lot of the leadership and the ownership on the players themselves as opposed to it constantly coming from the coaches.”

Following up Venechanos’ success at UMass will not be an easy task, but McMahon is up for the challenge, and very ambitious about her goals for the future.

“Not just in a conference or a Northeast standpoint but on the national level I really think there’s so much potential for this program to really take off,” McMahon said.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at jtalexan@student.umass.edu.

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