Katie Ferris smashing records, striving for a championship

By Patrick Strohecker

Evan Sahagian/Collegian

Ever since picking up a lacrosse stick as a young girl, Massachusetts women’s lacrosse player Katie Ferris has consistently been one of the best players on any field she’s played on.

Whether that was when she first started playing as a child on her club team in Syracuse, N.Y., the Star Riders, at Carthage Central High School, or at UMass, she has always excelled.

“It started off when I was younger, I think fourth grade,” Ferris said. “I had only played soccer and one of my best friends’ mom saw how athletic we all were and was like, ‘Why don’t you give this a try?’ So we were trying it and we were pretty good at it.”

Pulling double duty for the Star Riders and her high school team, Ferris was a four-time All-Star for the Comets, leading them to four straight state championships. As a junior, she set the school scoring record for goals in a season (138) and finished with 585 points.

But, for all that personal success, Ferris was never able to match it on a team level, falling short in all four trips to the state finals. She lost the championship by one goal in her final game as a senior.

Still, her knack for the goal and humble demeanor on and off the field got her noticed by many top schools in New England. But, if it weren’t for a strange turn of events, UMass never would have had a chance to see what she had to offer.

“I wasn’t supposed to come here,” Ferris said. “I signed with UConn with (coach Angela McMahon) because she was there and then right before school started she came here and brought me with her.”

Ferris has never looked back.

She shined as a freshman under McMahon’s system, proving why she was such a hot commodity out of high school. In her first year with the Minutewomen, she scored 72 points and broke the UMass single-season goal scoring record with 56. She was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and was named to the SynapseSports.com Rookie All-American Team, leading the nation in freshman scoring.

But it was something else that McMahon did that has helped her along substantially since donning the UMass jersey.

“She’s turned me more into a leader, like, this year especially.” Ferris said. “I’m much more of a leader and I’m a lot smarter because I have to be. I can’t make the stupid little mistakes that I could have made before when I was younger and new. Now I can’t. Those aren’t acceptable.”

However, Ferris isn’t the typical leader that yells and screams at her teammates to motivate them. Instead, she leads by example on the field, using her craftiness around the goal, her slick passing and her relentless defensive pressure to show the younger players what it takes to be successful.

“She’s definitely a more quiet person,” senior Lauren Terracciano said. “She’s not this big, loud leader. She’s not incredibly vocal. She more just gets the job done and doesn’t say anything before or after.”

That’s the way she is. In a day and age where it is hard to find superb talents that remain humble, Ferris belongs in that select group.

“I think the most important thing to her is not necessarily the stats, but she wants to win,” McMahon said. “I think her attitude is great because she also doesn’t get rattled when it comes to big-game situations. It’s like, I think, the bigger the game and the more pressure situation it is, the better she performs.”

Still, Ferris had much more to prove.

In the encore season to her breakout rookie campaign, Ferris did the unthinkable. She shattered her own scoring record from the previous season and broke two more in the process. She set new single-season records in goals (59), assists (39) and points (98), while helping the Minutewomen to their fourth straight A-10 crown, tying the conference record with Temple for most consecutive conference titles.

Even still though, something was missing. She led her team in points, to a conference title and to the NCAA Tournament, but a championship still eluded her.

In the first game of her junior season, Ferris and her teammates got another opportunity to gauge where they were on a national scale . The Minutewomen opened up their 2013 schedule against two-time defending national champion Northwestern, but lost soundly, 16-4.

There was work still needed to be done and it was Ferris who got her team to step its game up.

“That game was obviously very tough for us looking at the score,” Ferris said. “But, it was our first game. We’ve definitely learned a lot from that game and all of our other games. We’re more aware of our teammates and where they’re going to be. We’re just overall more of unit now than we were at the beginning of the season.”

Since then, UMass has won 13 of 14 games, with Ferris leading the way. Her unparalleled success as a Minutewoman has continued into this season, and everything tied together on last Friday.

That’s when, on a rainy evening against rival Temple, Ferris broke the school’s scoring record, previously held by her former teammate Jackie Lyons, with a six-goal and one-assist performance, rallying UMass back from a second-half deficit against the Owls. It took Lyons a full four years to get to 226 career points. For Ferris, it took her all of 50 games to eclipse that number. But, in the humble manner that she was raised with, it didn’t take Ferris long to give credit to her teammates.

“It was awesome to hear it announced and my teammates were excited,” Ferris said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

With the record in hand and another postseason berth clinched, it seems as though Ferris has once again managed to top her previous season’s accolades.

So, in a career that has spanned over 12 years, what is left for Ferris to accomplish? She pursued the sport she loves in college, shattered records and became a conference champion, twice. But there is still one spot on her trophy shelf that remains bare.

“It would be everything to me to win a national championship,” Ferris said. “And for our program, it would be everything, too, because UMass has such history and has won it before (in 1982), so for us to do it, would be awesome.”

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