Massachusetts women’s lacrosse coach Angela McMahon bolstered an already potent scoring unit this past season by recruiting a touted attacker in freshman Katie Ferris.
As promising a player as she proved to be, growing pains were an impediment for Ferris to begin the season that were as much physical as they were mental.
An early season injury kept Ferris sidelined for the first two games of the season, but in her first action, her impact was immediate.
“Her vision for the cage and her ability to put the ball away is one of the best I’ve seen of any of the girls I’ve ever coached,” said McMahon before the Minutewomen‘s game at New Hampshire.
Of the five leading point-scorers on the UMass (5-0) roster, four of them are upper classmen, including seniors Jackie Lyons and Haley Smith and juniors Jesse O’Donnell and Danielle Pelletier.
Second on that list is Ferris, who, in three games this season, has scored 11 points (10 goals, one assist) and two-game winning goals.
With an outstanding high school resume to her name and with Ferris’s recruitment, McMahon was confident that her skills would translate quickly into the college game.
Ferris, native of Carthage, N.Y., led Carthage Central High School to four-straight New York state championship appearances and set the state record for most goals scored in a season (138 goals) in her junior season.
Through phone calls and visits, McMahon invested a lot of time courting the touted freshman over the past two years. Ferris chose to follow McMahon to Amherst from Connecticut, where McMahon was the head coach because of her coaching style and personality as well as the program’s potential for national success.
“I just think she’s a great coach, [she] has a great personality. She’s someone that I would want to work hard for everyday,” said Ferris.
“I think she really liked my style, not only with the type of coach I was, but the type of person I was,” McMahon said. “She felt like she could come here and was going to be taken care of and looked after and be, also, challenged and pushed to her limits, in terms of getting better.”
For the first two games of this season, Katie Ferris stood on the sidelines, nursing a minor leg injury, according to McMahon. She watched as UMass squeezed out a 12-10 win at Holy Cross on Feb. 16 and won handily at home against Vermont 17-9 on Feb. 19.
Then, Ferris finally got her first action on Feb. 23 in a game against then-No. 18 Boston University. Ferris scored her first collegiate goal with four seconds left in the game to lift the Minutewomen to their first win over the Terriers since 2007.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” said Ferris. My knee still hurt. I just had to suck it up, go in and perform.”
In her last two games, she has scored nine goals, including a team-high five in a 16-7 win at Siena on Feb. 26 and four in an 11-4 win at UNH on March 2.
Her adjustment to the college game may appear swift, due in large part to the guidance of her teammates.
“The older girls are definitely there for me all the time. If I have any questions, they’re always there to answer them for me,” said Ferris. “The speed of the game [is] much faster than anything in high school. That was definitely the hardest thing to adjust to.
Ferris is tied for the Atlantic-10 lead in goals-per-game (3.33), despite making less than half of her total shots (.455 percent). Aside from the speed of the game, McMahon believes that it’s difficult to adjust to the elevated talent of college opponents.
“She’s still in that learning curve of trying to find the difference between playing high school and college,” said McMahon. “The goalies in college games are a little better. They play better angles, so I think she’s going to make adjustments and hopefully improve that shooting percentage.
Ferris was excited to learn that she earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors for her second-consecutive week. More so, she is pleased to help her team gain national recognition for their perfect start to the season.
“I was very excited about getting ranked, finally, because I know this team hasn’t been ranked in a very long time and this is the best start we’ve had in a long time,” said Ferris.
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.