April 16, 2014

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UMass rides three-game winning streak into matchup at BU

Four games into the young season, everything seems to be coming together for the No. 14 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team.

Taylor Snow/Collegian

Coming off their third straight win, an 18-9 clobbering at New Hampshire on Saturday, the Minutewomen (3-1) are now setting their sights on Wednesday’s game against in-state rival Boston University.

“Overall, I was pleased,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “We got a lot of different people involved either having goals or assists. A lot of people got on the scoreboard, our defense did a great job and Rachel (Vallarelli) played great in goal and had some key saves at critical times in the game.”

After dropping their season-opener to Northwestern, the Minutewomen found their pace and dominated their last three opponents, compiling a 57-26 scoring margin.

One of the keys to UMass’ early success has been the team’s balanced scoring. Coming into the year, junior Katie Ferris was named a preseason All-American after scoring 98 points last season. And while Ferris has already tallied 21 points in the first four games and has led the team in goals (12) and assists (nine), it is junior Sam Rush that has caught the eye of McMahon for her increased offensive production.

“She’s been doing a great job,” McMahon said. “She’s been working on her timing and working with the other three attackers in terms of them looking to hit her when she’s cutting in the middle and she puts the shots away.”

Rush is currently second on the team in goals (11) and points (11) and is one of the headliners of an attack that features 10 players averaging at least one point per game.

McMahon has also been very happy with UMass’ ability to control face-offs, giving her team more opportunities to get into its offense.

“I think we did a pretty good job the majority of the game, especially the second half when we really needed it,” McMahon said. “We got timely draw controls and that gave us momentum. I would just like to see more consistency with it.”

While the attack is firing on all cylinders heading into the matchup against the Terriers, one part of their game that is still causing the Minutewomen trouble is holding onto the ball.

“It was still pretty sloppy,” McMahon said. “We had the same amount of turnovers as last week, so it’s still something we’re going to have to work on.”

Through four games, UMass has turned the ball over 59 times – nearly 15 turnovers per game. The Minutewomen will need to make strides in this area, especially going up against a hungry Boston team that has 16 returners on its roster and is opening up its season against UMass.

While serving as the Terriers’ first opponent of the season poses some challenges in terms of preparation for the Minutewomen, it is something that McMahon does not want her players to get too caught up with.

“They’re a talented team,” McMahon said. “We’re also their first game, so it’s a little harder to prepare, but we’re going have to make sure we’re taking care of our own business on the field.”

Boston University, which has traditionally been a tough draw for UMass, has won six of the last nine meetings in the rivalry. The Minutewomen, however, have won the last two meetings, but neither victory was by more than two goals.

Wednesday’s game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. at Nickerson Field in Boston.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.

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