March 2, 2015

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UMass women’s lacrosse to face UConn in NCAA Tournament rematch

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The No. 12 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will be taking on a familiar foe on Saturday.

The Minutewomen (1-0) will be traveling to Storrs, Conn., where they will be taking on the same Connecticut team they defeated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

The game will offer an extra sense of familiarity for coach Angela McMahon, who coached UConn for two seasons before coming to UMass in 2010.

“Being nearby, the local rivalry between UMass and UConn makes it really exciting, and also adding, yes, a personal touch in terms of our experiences there,” she said.

The Huskies are coming off a strong season wherein they finished with a 13-5 overall record and a No. 18 ranking before being bounced by the Minutewomen in the national tournament.

Last year, UConn had the 35th best offense in the country, scoring 11.78 goals per game, and the 34th best defense, allowing 9.61 goals per game. McMahon said this year’s Huskies should present some challenges for UMass.

“They’re very aggressive, extremely feisty. We share some similarities as teams, in terms of being gritty, tough, hard working, scrappy teams,” she said. “So you know it’s going to be a good game when you have two teams that sort of share those elements.”

UConn returns many of its strongest players from last season, including last year’s Big East Midfielder of the Year, Lauren Kahn, who led the team offensively with 42 goals and 23 assists. McMahon said the Minutewomen would definitely have to watch out for Kahn.

“I wouldn’t really say that she can be contained, but just try to limit her opportunities,” she said.

After turning the ball over 15 times in the season opener against Vanderbilt, the Minutewomen plan to work on committing fewer unforced errors, especially after last year’s game against the Huskies, where the two teams combined for 39 turnovers.

“Vanderbilt was a great team, but we put ourselves in situations where we didn’t need to be, in terms of just overall turning the ball over,” she said. “When we do that, then we’re not giving ourselves opportunities to score as many goals.

“So that’s going to be the main focus going forward, because UConn will be a high pressure, intense team and we can’t just give the ball away.”

The two teams will have a moment of silence before the game for Brittney Testa, a goaltender for the Huskies who died in a car accident in December. McMahon recruited Testa and coached her as a freshman.

“She was a great kid,” McMahon said. “And that adds another sort of personal element to this game for me.

“It’s really unfortunate, and you feel bad for the whole UConn family in general, even though they’re our opponents. They’re all great kids and we’re really close with her.”

The game is set to start on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at jmayfiel@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88.

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