Balanced attack key in UMass’ ascent to No. 10 in the nation

By Patrick Strohecker

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Look at any sport and one of the keys to success for any team is to be balanced.

For the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team, its climb to No. 10 in the nation has been fueled by that exact notion.

“We like to think of ourselves as a seven-person attack,” senior Lauren Terracciano said. “There’s not just one person who can score. There’s not just two people who can score. We really take pride in having seven threats to the goal.”

Over the course of the season, the Minutewomen (11-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) have added to the attack, with 11 different players scoring at least five goals this year. But it is still the top seven – Sam Rush, Katie Ferris, Cori Murray, Terracciano, Tanner Guarino, Ellie Bullitt and Melissa Carelli – who have accounted for 77 percent of the UMass offense, scoring 154 of the team’s 199 goals through its first 13 games.

“We try to really focus on that in practice, in terms of everybody really being confident in challenging hard to cage,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “I think, especially seeing what’s happened over the past couple years with the amount of attention that some of our top players get from opponents’ defenses, showed us that we need to be well rounded in order to be successful.”

With the Minutewomen’s top-five scorers all being upperclassmen, it has been up to many of the underclassmen to also carry much of the offensive load.

Six of UMass’ top-13 scorers are either freshmen or sophomores, relying on the upperclassmen to help them get a grasp of the high-flying attack.

“I think we have a great set of leadership,” McMahon said. “Obviously the senior class is small in numbers, being four, but they do have a ton of experience. The juniors have a ton of experience and have really brought along a lot of the younger players well.”

But over the past two games, the Minutewomen attack has struggled, being held to only 22 goals combined against Richmond and George Washington. UMass was held to five fewer goals than its season average in both games and has seen its goals-per-game output drop from 16.1 per game to 15.3.

The inability to find the back of the net has had a direct effect on its goals against also rising over the past two games.

“It is something that we really like to help each other out with,” Terracciano said about the relationship between the offense and the defense. “For instance, if we just played five minutes of hard defense and the defense just got a stop, then us, as the attack, need to realize that we just played five minutes of defense and slow it down and be patient and let them get a breather.”

Even when goals are tough to come by, like last weekend, the attack still finds a way to get everyone involved. UMass had four different multi-goal scorers in the double overtime victory over Richmond and that carried over into Sunday’s win over George Washington when three players had multi-goal afternoons.

The Minutewomen currently leads the A-10 in scoring, averaging over two goals per game more than the next team.

“It’s a couple different things,” McMahon said. “I think the confidence piece is one. I think the speed and athleticism is another. We’re trying to recruit and bring in people that can be explosive and dynamic in getting by their defenders.”

 

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