Minutewomen’s quest for fifth straight A-10 title begins Friday

By Patrick Strohecker

Cade Belisle/Collegian

At the beginning of the season, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team’s one goal was to win the Atlantic 10.

Now, the Minutewomen (15-2, 7-0 A-10) are only two games away from making that goal complete.

After ending the regular season on a 12-game winning streak and running the table in conference play, UMass enters this weekend’s conference tournament as the No. 1 seed after it defeated Duquesne in the regular-season finale.

“We were really excited,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “(The win over Duquesne) definitely helps give us good momentum going into this weekend, feeling good about some of the things that we did well on the field.”

The Minutewomen will play host to No. 4 seed George Washington in the semifinal matchup. In their prior meeting this season, the Colonials (9-7, 4-3 A-10) gave UMass all it could handle, losing by a single goal in a game that saw GW erase a four-goal deficit and miss a shot with seven seconds left in the game that could have forced overtime.

McMahon realizes the importance of learning from the mistakes her team made in that game and making sure they don’t happen again.

“I would say that ball possession is really the main difference,” McMahon said. “So, I think if we can do a better job of that against George Washington and not having many turnovers, then I think that’s the biggest difference between the two games.”

One thing that the Minutewomen will have on their side is the comfort of playing at home. This is the first time since 2008 that UMass is hosting the A-10 Tournament.

The Minutewomen were a perfect 7-0 at McGuirk Stadium this season and have won 24 straight games on home turf. They have been looking forward to the opportunity to host the tournament ever since it was announced.

“It’s thrilling. We’ve been waiting for this for a while,” McMahon said. “None of the girls on this current team have ever hosted a tournament here. Just being here, being around campus, the energy and buzz, being nice, being able to sleep in their own beds and not have to spend six or seven hours traveling, all that makes it a huge difference for us in terms of our preparation.”

If UMass wins the A-10 Tournament, it would be the fifth straight conference title for the program, breaking the record for most consecutive conference championships, which it currently is tied for with Temple.

Also at stake is an opportunity for the senior class to go out on top in a big way. With two more wins this weekend, the four seniors – Cori Murray, Kelsey Palmer, Sarah Mullen and Lauren Terracciano – will accomplish the rare feat of winning the A-10 all four years of their collegiate careers.

For McMahon, it is more about just giving the team an opportunity to continue playing.

“I think it’s always a goal and something that people keep in the back of their minds,” McMahon said. “But, we focus more so on them staying together as a unit for as long as possible. So we know that for that to happen for them, they’re going to have to bring their A-game Friday and make sure that we are able to play on Sunday.”

UMass begins its quest toward a fifth straight A-10 title Friday afternoon against GW at 1 p.m. The winner will then play the victor of the Duquesne and Temple game on Sunday in the A-10 Championship game at 1 p.m. All games are at McGuirk Stadium.

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