The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has an opportunity to make the school record books on Friday when it takes on Saint Joseph’s in its regular season finale.
If UMass can take care of business and defeat the 5-10 Hawks, the Minutewomen will become the first team in the history of the program to go undefeated in Atlantic 10 regular season play.
First year coach Angela McMahon recognized the possibility of achieving this record and deflected most of the credit to her team.
“It’s great,” said McMahon. “Like I said before, the way this team has transformed from the beginning of the season to now has been great.”
Right now, the Minutewomen are 13-2 overall and 6-0 in A-10 play. They’re coming off of a convincing 14-4 win over Richmond in which they locked up the top seed for the A-10 tournament.
“It was a total team effort, from the defense coming up with the ball and transitioning it down field, to people in the draw circles winning the draws and then attack, capitalizing on the other end,” said McMahon.
The Minutewomen were clicking on all cylinders against the Spiders. They built an insurmountable 11-1 first-half lead behind efficient offense and suffocating defense, cruising to a 14-4 win.
“We probably possessed the ball about 75 percent of the game and that was huge for us,” said McMahon.
Katie Ferris and Jackie Lyons enter Friday’s showdown with the Hawks as the offensive catalysts for the Minutewomen. Ferris leads the team and the A-10 in goals scored with 45, while chipping in eight assists. Lyons, a senior, has accumulated 52 points over the course of the season behind 28 goals and 24 assists.
Junior goalkeeper Katie Florence has been stellar in net, collecting all of the team’s victories. Her 13 wins, 8.51 goals allowed average and .482 save percentage are all career highs.
The defensive unit will be anchored by Nazy Kerr and Ali Houlis. Kerr, the lone senior defender, provides defense with leadership and experience. Houlis, a junior, has improved on her successful career at UMass. She leads the team in groundballs (30) for the second-straight year and has claimed the last two A-10 Defensive Player of the Week awards.
Meanwhile, 2011 has been a difficult year for Saint Joe’s. The Hawks currently sit in 7th place in the league with a 1-5 record and will not be one of four teams in the A-10 tourney this year.
The Hawks limped through the first half of the season, going 4-5 against nonconference opponents. They kicked off conference play on a high note, defeating La Salle 7-6, but from that point on, SJU struggled immensely.
The Hawks followed up their conference opener with a pair of one-goal defeats to Temple and St. Bonaventure. Since those tight losses, Saint Joesph’s has suffered a 14-5 loss to Duquesne and six-goal losses to Richmond and George Washington.
The Hawks feature a top-heavy scoring attack with three players combining for 66 percent of the team’s goals.
The high scoring trio includes Grace Dinn (28 goals, 11 assists), Jen Peters (26 goals, two assists) and Meghan McDevitt (15 goals, 17 assists).
Although she is strapped with a 5-10 record, goalie Kaitlin LaBarbera has posted impressive numbers. Her 10.31 goals against average and .454 save percentage both rank third in the A-10.
Despite having the No. 1 seed and all the momentum on their side, McMahon is not ready to crown her team.
“Once you get into tournament play, it’s a whole different season and everyone is playing with a different sense of urgency,” said McMahon. “Anything can happen on any given day.”
In fact, she would rather not think about the A-10 tournament and instead shift her attention to Saint Joseph’s.
“We’re just trying to stay focused especially on this last game and making sure that we’re continuing to improve and get better,” said McMahon.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]