On Friday, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will enter the Atlantic 10 tournament in Philadelphia as the top seed. Despite going undefeated in conference play, there are three teams that are ready to contend with UMass for the title.
Richmond (No. 2)
Richmond enters the tournament with an unimpressive 9-8 record for a No. 2 seed. However, the Spiders overall record does not accurately reflect the talent they have. Their rather pedestrian regular season record was a result of a rigorous non-conference schedule that featured four straight top 20 ACC opponents.
Their tumultuous non-conference play began with losses to current No. 1 Maryland, No. 6 Duke, No. 4 North Carolina and No. 13 Virginia. They escaped non-conference play with a 3-7 record, with five of their seven losses coming against ranked opponents.
Early in conference play, Richmond looked poised to make a run at the No.1 seed for the upcoming A-10 tournament. But any aspirations the Spiders had were dashed when reigning A-10 Midfielder of the Year Mary Flowers went down with an injury. The junior was forced out of Richmond’s battle with UMass and the Spiders subsequently lost the game and any chance at the top seed.
Flowers has since returned and should be healthy this weekend. She led the Spiders in goals (37), assists (23), draw controls (53) and groundballs (58) despite missing three conference games. Her statistical dominance extended to the rest of the conference where she lead the league in groundballs per game (4.38), points per game (4.15) and draw controls per game (4).
Richmond will take on the No. 3 seed Temple on Friday.
Temple (No. 3)
The Owls (7-9, 5-2 A-10) were another team that slumped through non-conference play only to see their fate turned when conference play began.
They collected just two wins against non-conference opponents and suffered a humbling 19-4 loss to No. 2 Florida. A long, disappointing season seemed inevitable, but they surprised many by going 5-2 against A-10 opponents and earned the No.3 seed in the tournament.
Considering the inferiority they showed statistically, Temple’s success in conference play was puzzling. Among the other seven A-10 teams, the Owls rank in the bottom half in goals, assists, groundballs and draw controls, all statistics considered essential to success in women’s lacrosse.
That being said, the Owls propensity to win close games cannot be ignored. They did not win a game by more than four goals all season and three of their five conference wins were determined by just one goal.
Sophomore midfielder Charlotte Swavola, leads a modest offensive attack with 35 goals and 12 assists, while Missy Schweitzer (24 goals) and Stephany Parcell (23 goals) both produce from the midfield position.
Temple’s big test will come in goal when they play offensive juggernaut Richmond. The Owls have struggled all season getting consistent play in the cage. Starting goalie Tess Bishop has just a .355 save percentage. To put that number in perspective, she’s the only starting goalie in the A-10 with a save percentage below 40 percent.
Temple has perhaps the biggest advantage of any team in the tournament, as they will compete on their home turf in Philadelphia.
Duquesne (No. 4)
With the second best overall record in the A-10, Duquesne (11-6, 4-3 A-10) is poised to make an upset bid this weekend.
It’s easy to look at the Dukes’ pedigree and single them out as a team that could present a challenge for top-seeded Massachusetts.
First off, they enter the tournament on a hot streak after winning their last three games. In addition, the Dukes are one of the scrappiest teams in the A-10 as five of their six losses have come by four goals or less.
Like Temple, Duquesne’s offense is largely contingent on generating offense individually. They rank just ahead of cellar-dweller La Salle with 45 assists on the season.
Despite a dearth of assists, the Duquesne attack is nevertheless potent. Katie Rekart ranks among the league leaders in goals (46 goals) and Meredith Dunn (49 points) and Haley Marafioti (46 points) are two of the best complimentary scorers in the conference.
A majority of Duquesne’s success comes from their goalie, Liz Walker, who has played stellar all season. Her 8.60 goals allowed average and .458 save percentage rank second in the league, just behind UMass goalkeeper Katie Florence.
The one knock on the Dukes is their inability to win against the best teams in the conference. They went 0-3 against Richmond, UMass and Temple.
They will hope to break that trend on Friday when they face off against the top-seeded Minutewomen.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at email@example.com.