Minutewomen take perfect record on the road

By Jeffrey Okerman

It’s been more than 25 years since the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team opened with a 6-0 record in back-to-back years. Now, after five straight wins at McGuirk Stadium to open the season, the Minutewomen (5-0) have the opportunity to match that feat when they travel to Burlington, Vt. to take on the University of Vermont, this weekend.

It will be no easy feat, however, with the Catamounts (4-0) having done away with their first slew of opponents perfectly, just like the Minutewomen.

“We’re really going to focus on the little things, whether that be on the field or off the field,” said UMass coach Angela McMahon. “In practice we need to make sure we focus in on our game-plan and executing, as well as being sharp, and making sure we play a full 60 minutes on Saturday.”

In last season’s match-up at McGuirk Stadium, the Minutewomen were able to defeat UVM by a score of 17-9. In that contest, however, now-graduate assistant Jackie Lyons was the offensive star with three goals and three assists. While UMass has some top performers, the Catamounts return eight of 11 starters from last year’s encounter.

The two teams are tops the offensive charts in the entire country. The Minutewomen have put up 17.8 goals-per-game while the high-powered UVM attack trails only slightly with 17.75 goals-per-game. McMahon thinks this will lead to a more defensive-minded game.

“It will be imperative for us to play a team defense,” said McMahon. “I think it might be the opposite [of last year] and it could be a low scoring game. We’ve been focusing really hard on [the defensive portion] in practice.”

The Catamounts boast three players in double figures for goals, with Samantha Stern (10 goals, 14 assists), Sydney Mas (14 goals, 2 assists), and Adison Rounds (10 goals, 1 assist) leading the attack.

“They definitely have more threats on offense than we have seen before,” said McMahon.

Stern, the Cats’ senior attacker, ranks fifth in the nation in points-per-game, with six, while UMass sophomore attacker Katie Ferris ranks third, with just over six. Key in the encounter will be shutting down Stern, who, before her one point showing against High Point, led the nation in points-per-game.

“Again, it’s going to be a defense effort,” said McMahon. “If we’re going to stop her it’s not going to be just one person, it’s going to be as a team because she is a talented attacker. We have to make sure our help defense is ready, in case we get beat one-on-one. We need to make especially sure there is help there [against her].”

Also prominent in the Catamounts attack has been Karil Mackendrick. The midfielder has 12 points on the season, having collected nine of those points in the 18-14 victory over High Point last week.

For the Minutewomen, Ali Houlis and Riley Perry, both seniors, have been joined by junior Kelsey Palmer in each of the five games this season. Their experience will be vital in defending the cage in the defensive zone.

“Our defenders have done a really good job of communicating on the field, and that communication will be crucial on Saturday,” said McMahon. “To make sure we play a team defense we need to be talking, and that’s where the veteran leadership comes into play.”

On the other end, the Catamounts return the starting defenders from last season’s showdown with the Minutewomen. Danielle O’Dwyer, a junior defender from Braintree, Mass., has been a fixture on the squad, having started almost every game last season and each one this season. Senior Caitie Izzo can make the same claim.

UVM defense hasn’t had smooth sailing, however. While the Catamounts have seen 10.45 tallies against them per-game, the Minutewomen have seen more success on defense. UMass has only allowed 7.6 goals-per-game. McMahon hopes to take advantage of that by capitalizing on their chances.

“We’re going to try to make every single one of our offensive opportunities count because they have such a potent attack,” said McMahon. “We’re going to make sure we’re being patient and working for the best shot possible.”

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.