Players filling new roles the key to Minutewomen’s early season success

By Patrick Strohecker

If the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team wanted to repeat the success it had last season, it was going to have to fill some major holes in its roster this season.

Cade Belisle/Collegian

After graduating eight seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, the Minutewomen (5-2) experienced a lot of turnover and entered the season searching for answers at every part of the field.

Seven games into the season, however, numerous players have stepped up, taking on new roles and challenges and helping to fill the void left behind by the departed senior class.

The attacking end had the least to worry about entering the season, with last year’s leading scorer Katie Ferris returning after her 98-point campaign in 2012. But it is her supporting cast that has picked up the rest of the load offensively, with Sam Rush, Cori Murray and Lauren Terracciano all scoring at a higher rate than last season.

Rush, Murray and Terracciano combined to score 151 points last season in 62 combined games, an average of 2.4 points per game. This season, the three have totaled 62 points over the course of 20 combined games, which is good for a 3.1 point per game pace. Their improved roles, which have come with more playing time, have helped take some of the load off of Ferris. It has also been key in pacing UMass’ offense, which is averaging 14.3 goals per game through its first seven games.

While the attack is headlined by upperclassmen, the midfield and defense has had to rely heavily on freshmen and sophomores. After Tanner Guarino, Melissa Carelli and Kelsey McGovern, there was a tremendous drop-off of experienced players returning from last year’s team. Earlier this season, UMass coach Angela McMahon said she expected the incoming freshmen and sophomores to play a larger role on this year’s team.

And they have not disappointed.

In every part of the field, the underclassmen have stepped into larger roles that were left behind by the seniors. Nicole Troost, Katie Ott and Ellie Bullitt have all logged big minutes for the Minutewomen this season, playing wherever McMahon needs them during the course of a game.

Bullitt, traditionally a midfielder, started her only game this season on attack, filling in for an injured Ferris. She took advantage of the opportunity and recorded a goal and two assists.

That has been the case throughout the entire lineup, with every player on this season’s roster playing in at least two games this season and with 21 different players recording at least one point.

While every spot on the field is crucial, none is more important than in goal, where UMass had its biggest hole to fill after last season.

Over the course of the last four seasons, Katie Florence occupied the goalie’s circle, accumulating 56 wins in her four years as a starter. But, after graduating last spring, that spot was left vacant, allowing for an opportunity for a new goalie to take over.

That person was sophomore Rachel Vallarelli.

Vallarelli took over as the No. 1 goalie for the Minutewomen this season with only 12 total games of experience from her freshman year. However, in her first season as a full-time starter, Vallarelli has been the backbone of the UMass defense, one that is allowing only 9.3 goals against per game.

She has started the first seven games for the Minutewomen and has not surrendered more than 10 goals since the season opener against second-ranked Northwestern.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected]edu and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.