No. 11 Minutewomen look for 4-0 conference start this weekend

By Dan Gigliotti

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The No. 11 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team began its Atlantic 10 schedule in winning fashion, the same winning way it left off last season.

Wins against Temple on Thursday and La Salle on Sunday were the start to what coach Angela McMahon and the Minutewomen hope will be their third-consecutive conference championship.

UMass (9-2, 2-0 A-10) has ranked in the deBeer Media Poll for six consecutive weeks, the most in team history, and the program is garnering more recognition each week.

Still, McMahon isn’t willing to celebrate her team’s success yet; not until the Minutewomen continue their winning ways through April and, she hopes, into May.

“No, it’s not a big deal,” said McMahon, in reference to her team’s highest ranking in the national polls since 1988.
“It’s good for recruiting, that’s about it,” added McMahon. “Beating Duquesne, right now, is our focus and that’s our only focus because if we don’t do that, the rankings don’t mean anything at all.”

For the second-straight week, UMass plays two games in a three-day span, beginning at home against Duquesne on Friday and on the road against St. Bonaventure on Sunday.

Sunday’s game was moved from the Bonnies’ campus to Alfred University because of unfavorable field conditions.
The Dukes boast the stingiest defense in the A-10 and are ranked 13th nationally in scoring defense, averaging just over eight goals per game (8.36). Goalie Liz Walker (7.27 saves per game, .479 save percentage) and the Duquesne defense will provide an interesting match-up against the Minutewomen and their top-ranked offense in the A-10.

UMass averages over 14 goals per game (14.18) and over 30 shots per game (31.45) and are ranked 11th nationally in scoring. However, the veteran players will have to accomplish something the program hasn’t in four years.

With a 6-7 all-time record against the Dukes, Duquesne is one of six teams that hold a winning record over the Minutewomen in at least 10 meetings (out of 21 total opponents).

The last UMass team to beat the Dukes was in 2007, as the Minutewomen have dropped three consecutive regular season games in the series by a combined total of four goals. No current Minutewomen player has experienced a win over the Dukes and their experience will be a key factor in Friday‘s match-up.

“That’s where we rely on our veteran leadership, our juniors and seniors, to really help prepare and set the tone for these league opponents because they know them well,” said McMahon.

UMass’ history against St. Bonaventure has been the exact opposite, winning three-straight games over the Bonnies, including an 11-6 win at home on April 11, 2010.

McMahon will have little time to prepare for the Bonnies, but she is confident that her players’ familiarity with conference opponents will make the transition smooth.

“One good thing is that the girls are kind of used to the teams that we play and know a lot about them, so I think they’re pretty familiar with the styles and stuff,” said McMahon. “Obviously, players change year-to-year which we get them prepared for. But, I think in terms of style, they’re pretty aware of what the different teams do.”

Maintaining focus on the road with short preparation time has not been an issue so far this season for the Minutewomen, as they are 6-0 away from McGuirk Stadium, including a 17-4 win in Philadelphia over La Salle their last time out.

“They have to focus that much more, in the little time they have, so I think they did a really good job last week of really focusing in on La Salle, because we only had a few days to get ready for them,” said McMahon. “I think it’s more of a mental game as opposed to a physical game when it comes to short game preparation.”

Somewhere in the collective consciousness of the UMass players is the importance of each game’s impact in the A-10 standings. With five games remaining on the schedule (four in conference), the Minutewomen are looking to gain high seeding for the A-10 Tournament.

“We try to treat every game sort of the same, but I think in the back of the girls’ heads, in terms of the weight it holds for our future and hopes of making the A-10 Tournament… I think that’s sort of in the back of peoples’ minds,” said McMahon. “But, in general, we try to go about our business the same exact way as we did with all our non-conference games.”

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]