On Friday, the No. 14 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will begin
their bid for a third-straight Atlantic 10 title when they take on Duquesne.
The top-seeded Minutewomen (14-2, 7-0 A-10) will face the fourth-seeded Dukes (11-6, 4-3 A-10) in a semi-final matchup at Temple University.
UMass is fresh off of their 18-4 win over St. Joseph’s in which they finished off a perfect 7-0 season in A-10 regular season play. The win marked the first time the team had gone undefeated in their 12 years in the conference.
To keep their seven-game winning streak alive, UMass head coach Angela McMahon said her team must take care of the ball versus a pesky Duquesne team.
“I think the more time we have possession in the game, the better opportunities we’ll get to score and essentially win the game,” said McMahon.
Another key to the game will be containing the Dukes’ offensive leader, Katie Rekart.
“We need to put pressure on her,” said McMahon. “She’s a great player, she’s probably going to have a few goals, but if we can limit those shots and opportunities, hopefully we’ll get the ball back before they settle in on offense.”
Rekart, a senior from Ellicott City, Md., leads her team in goals (46 goals), and assists (13), with her 59 points ranking just behind Richmond’s Mary Flowers (60) for most in the conference.
However, Rekart is not Duquesne’s lone scoring option. Meredith Dunn (42 goals, seven assists) and Haley Marafioti (37 goals, nine assists) are both lethal in Dukes’ offensive attack..
With UMass’ electric attacking duo of Katie Ferris and Jackie Lyons, combined with the Dukes’ trio of Rekart, Dunn and Marafioti, scoring opportunities should be plenty throughout the contest..
McMahon also spoke of the battle between Massachusetts’ goalie Katie Florence and Duquesne’s netminder Liz Walker.
“Goalie play can create so much momentum for a team and when a goalie is playing well and making huge stops it really energizes the whole team,” said McMahon. “I expect both goalies to have good performances.”
A “good performance” would be nothing out of the ordinary for both netminders..
Florence leads the A-10 in goals against average (8.33) and save percentage (48.7).
The only player even close to Florence’s numbers is Walker, who ranks just behind her in goals against average (8.60), and save percentage (45.8).
UMass also has a convincing 13-6 win over the Dukes early in the season to hang their hats on.
Meanwhile, multiple Minutewomen were honored this week for their outstanding performances on and off the field.
Lyons was named the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and Ferris took home Rookie of the Year honors. Florence was named the Defensive Player of the Year, while the Student-Athlete of the Year award went to junior defender Riley Perry and McMahon won the Coach of the Year.
These numerous accolades summarize what a special year 2011 has been for the Minutewomen.
Despite the success, McMahon knows that plenty of work is yet to be done. But with upperclassmen like Lyons, Perry and Florence leading the way, the team hopes to generate wins in the A-10 tournament while heading back to the NCAA tournament.
“Having that experience with two A-10 championships in the past two years is really going to help us, and I think the upperclassmen will help the freshmen understand what it’s like to be on a bigger stage,” said McMahon.
Game in and game out, the Minutewomen have proved that they are the most dominant team in the A-10. Yet McMahon still says her team is playing to prove something on Friday.
“The girls are looking forward to showing what UMass lacrosse is all about,” said McMahon.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at email@example.com.