Key weekend for No.10 Minutewomen

By Jeffrey Okerman

With the spring collegiate season creeping into the mid-April weeks, the postseason is right around the corner. Though Atlantic 10 conference play only recently began, the season is undoubtedly in its latter stages.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The upcoming weekend for the No.10 Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will be as pivotal for it as it will be for every A-10 team in action this weekend, a fact that UMass coach Angela McMahon acknowledges.

“A lot of teams will be vying for spots,” said McMahon. “We have to make sure that we are sharp, and take of ourselves, and do what we need to do.”

The first challenge for the Minutewomen (12-1, 3-0 A-10) this weekend comes from an in-form Duquense team in Pittsburgh. The Dukes (9-4, 2-1 A-10) are undefeated at home and are coming off of a crushing victory of conference rivals St. Bonaventure, 22-9.

“They have a couple different threats on attack, a couple different scorers, but they are also very, very well coached,” said McMahon. “They are disciplined, and defensively they have a great goalie. [Furthermore] their defenders put a lot of pressure on the attackers.”

Duquense’s attack is led by Caitlin Prince who has amassed 49 points from 43 goals and six helpers, having started every game for the Dukes. Also leading the line is Haley Marafioti, who has scored 34 times and distributed 10 assists. DU also boasts two more attackers who have surpassed the 20 goal mark in Clare Hurley (28) and Amanda Kidder (20).

“[Prince] is a key player,” admitted McMahon. “She can dish the ball as well as be a force up front. It’s really going to come down to team defense, not just one person matching her up, but everyone being ready to help. We just need to be ready to do our jobs, the best we can.”

For the Minutewomen, it will be their first game since dismantling St. Joseph’s last Friday, and the first game since Katie Ferris broke the all-time, single-season points record. In that game, there were three hat tricks – Ferris (six goals), Murray (four goals), Rush (three goals) – and they will be looking to carry that form into the crucial weekend battle.

When the Minutewomen return to Amherst, they will quickly need to turn around to showdown with the Bonnies (3-5, 0-3 A-10).

SBU has failed to find a solid rhythm this season, starting with two wins, before losing five straight, and then beating Bucknell to get to where it is now. However, the Bonnies season is much shorter than some of its competitors, lacking many non-conference opportunities that benefit some of its rivals.

The record doesn’t fool McMahon though, who won’t take this game any lighter than any before or after.

“St. Bonaventure is a very tough and gritty team,” said McMahon. “They have a lot of hardworking kids, who really go all out on hustle plays, and never give up and we’re going to have to make sure that, again, we’re playing a full 60 minutes.”

Leading the way for the Bonnies is attacker Danielle Drabin who has 14 goals from 24 shots. Daisy Timlin has also been a scoring threat for SBU, having put every one of her 19 shots on target, collecting 12 goals to go along with seven assists.

However, McMahon is confident her team can come away with two crucial victories to add to their conference tally. Two wins will keep the Minutewomen safely at the top of the A-10 standings and put the No.10 team knocking on the postseason doorstep.

“When we play the way we are capable of playing, I honestly think we can beat anybody,” said McMahon. “But these will be tough games because we have had trouble putting those full sixty minutes together. If we do that, and stick to our game plan then we can beat anybody.

“It will be about winning the draws, winning the groundballs, and if we do that, we’re in good position to win,” said McMahon.

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