Senior Jackie Lyons and the No. 11 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team are wading through their conference schedule behind the success of their offense.
Lyons, the reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, is used to being the catalyst for the UMass (11-2, 4-0) offense with her goal-scoring. With a core of adept upperclassmen and a set of emerging newcomers taking up the scoring load, Lyons has played more of a facilitating role this season, and it is working out in the Minutewomen’s favor.
“Even last year, we had maybe four or five [scorers], but now we have all seven people,” said Lyons after a recent win against Duquesne. “We have people coming off the bench who can score, and it’s great because it’s hard for teams to stop us when everybody’s a threat.”
After scoring 29 goals in two wins this weekend, the Minutewomen are averaging 14.50 goals per game in Atlantic 10 play. The UMass offense tallied the most goals allowed by Duquesne this season in a 13-6 win on Friday and scored 16 goals for the sixth time this season in a win over St. Bonaventure on Sunday.
The Minutewomen are scoring an A-10-best 14.23 goals-per-game on the season and are getting scoring production from a number of players on their roster. Seven players currently have 10 or more goals this season and four have more than 20.
Junior attacker Nina Sarcona (17 goals, four assists) scored her first hat trick this season with three goals against the Bonnies. Junior midfielder Dayna Defliese (seven goals), last week’s A-10 Defensive Player of the Week, scored three goals Sunday, one fewer than she had in 12 games prior.
Senior midfielder Haley Smith has benefited from her role sprinting off of the bench, scoring 23 goals this season, while junior attacker Jesse O’Donnell (23 goals, seven assists) is taking advantage of familiar conference foes, scoring eight goals and dishing out four assists in her last three games.
The top scorer on the UMass squad is freshman Katie Ferris who, in 11 games this season, has 39 goals and eight assists. Ferris tallied four goals against the Dukes, five goals against the Bonnies and has scored a hat trick in all but two of her games played this season.
Meanwhile, Lyons is second on the team in points scored with 23 goals and 20 assists. Those rank as some of the highest totals in the A-10 this season, but for her they are modest numbers.
With 43 points so far this season, she is on a pace to score fewer points (approximately 66) than she did in each of her previous two seasons (71 points in 19 games in 2009, 69 points in 20 games in 2010).
On Friday, Lyons scored her first hat trick since March 2 and did not register a goal on Sunday. Despite her slowed goal-scoring production, she has been setting up her teammates with more regularity than at any point in her career.
“Everybody on our offense is a threat, so even if you faceguard one of us, somebody else is just going to step up,” said Lyons. “Everybody on our team can go to goal. We’re moving off the ball for each other, so that was working good, and we were just moving the ball around really well.”
With three games left in conference play, the Minutewomen offense appears to be consistent enough to compete for a third-straight conference title. Whether or not Lyons receives personal accolades, her regularity on the attack will go a long way in determining how UMass finishes its season.
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.