Another opposition’s season opener in store for Minutewomen

By Jay Asser

Thanks to an early start to the season, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has already played in two games before some of its opponents in the early going have even stepped onto the field for the first time this spring.

In their first game of the 2010 campaign, the Minutewomen (1-1) fell, 18-6, in a loss to five-time defending champion and No. 1 ranked Northwestern. Rather than being discouraged by the loss, UMass coach Alexis Venechanos has seen it as an opportunity to face the best team in the country right off the bat and gain valuable experience.

Leading up to the game against Holy Cross in UMass’ home opener at McGuirk Stadium on Wednesday, Venechanos claimed her team had one of their best weeks of practice yet.

It showed during the game.

The Minutewomen came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, and kept the Crusaders (0-1) at bay throughout the contest to record the 15-9 win, the first of their season.

Whether or not Holy Cross was rusty in its first game of the spring is questionable. What’s clear, however, is that UMass learned from its mistakes in the Northwestern game and was in game-shape against the Crusaders.

Now, the Minutewomen get another opportunity this weekend to face a team that is playing its first game of the season in Connecticut.

Venechanos realizes that her team has the advantage heading into the matchup, but is more concerned with UMass’ play and not that of the Huskies.

“Having two games under our belt going into that contest will definitely help us,” Venechanos said. “I think we’ve gotten out the jitters and it’s really more about how well we’re playing rather than our opponents.”

Unlike Holy Cross, however, UConn opens up its season at home. In fact, the Huskies’ first four games of the spring are in Storrs, Conn. Though only going 3-13 last year, all of UConn’s victories came on its home field.

Coincidently, the Minutewomen played better on the road last season than they did at home, amassing a 3-3 record as the away team and a 4-8 record in Amherst.

The key for the Huskies is holding their opponents to single-digit scores. Last season, UConn was 0-13 when the opposition scored 10 or more goals and 3-0 when it scored 10 or fewer.

UMass presents the Huskies with a difficult task of containing its attack which yielded four multi-goal scorers in its win against Holy Cross, including two players who recorded at least a hat trick.

Though the first game of the year is usually just one of many, for some teams, it can set the mood for the remainder of the schedule. UConn will look to start off on the right foot against the Minutewomen after beginning its 2008-2009 season with a 14-11 loss to Vermont. That loss led to eight straight losses before the Huskies finally earned an 11-9 win in late march against Cincinnati.

Despite the struggles of UConn in the past, the beauty of a season opener is that the team starts with a clean slate.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]