No. 13 UMass women’s lax looks to continue winning ways against Richmond

By Patrick Strohecker

Cade Belisle/Collegian

For the past few seasons, if the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team wanted to win the Atlantic 10 crown, it would have to take care of business against rival Richmond.

In fact, the Spiders were the last team standing between UMass and another A-10 crown last season, as the Minutewomen beat Richmond 14-9 to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

But in 2013, the No. 13 Minutewomen (9-2, 1-0 A-10) and Spiders (3-8, 0-1 A-10) are heading in different directions. That doesn’t mean UMass coach Angela McMahon will let her team look past Richmond.

“Their current record does not indicate the quality of team that they are,” McMahon said. “They have a really tough schedule.”

The Spiders opened the season with four straight losses against Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the Top 10 — No. 4 Maryland, No. 7 Duke, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 8 Virginia. Richmond also faced off with ranked opponents Navy and James Madison, going 1-1 in those contests.

UMass enters Friday’s game in the midst of a six-game winning streak. During that span, its only had one game decided by fewer than nine goals — an overtime victory against Albany on March 8.

Meanwhile, the Spiders are in the midst of a streak of their own, but in the opposite direction. Richmond has lost its last two games and three of its last four, each coming by a single goal.

Despite each team’s differences in fortunes, Friday’s matchup is not one that the Minutewomen can overlook.

“They’ve been challenged and tested and feel good about the success that they’ve had,” McMahon said of the Spiders. “Even though some of those games were losses, they did have success within those games and I think that they are pretty confident coming in and what they were able to do in some of those challenging games for them.”

Heading into its game against the Spiders last season, UMass was in a similar position, boasting a 9-1 record, but were forced to overtime by Richmond before squeaking out a 15-14 victory.

Last season’s close contest was not out of the ordinary for the two conference rivals, with three of their last four meetings being settled by four or goals or fewer.

No matter where on the schedule this game takes place, it always creates a certain kind of hype around the team and this season is no different.

“I think there’s always a certain energy or buzz in the days leading up to playing Richmond,” McMahon said. “It is an exciting game for us, (a) rivalry. But, again, we really try to focus on ourselves and what we’re doing as opposed to our opponent.”

With this season’s matchup taking place so early in conference play, it creates a good opportunity for the Minutewomen to put their stamp on the conference, while for the Spiders, it’s a chance to record another win against a ranked opponent and kick start their season.

For Richmond, that task will not be an easy one, as UMass enters the game playing its best lacrosse of the season. Its success can be attributed to great team defense and offensive execution, with the strong defense directly affecting the Minutewomen attack.

Over the course of the winning streak, the team defense has been solid, allowing only 7.2 goals per game. On the other end of the field, the offense has been rolling, averaging 18 goals per game, while scoring over 20 in four of the six wins.

Friday’s game will be the first of three consecutive home games for UMass, which is a perfect 4-0 at McGuirk Stadium while beating its opponents by an average margin of 10.25 goals per game.

Face-off against the Spiders is scheduled for 4 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium Friday evening. The Minutewomen will have a quick turnaround following the affair, as they they play Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against George Washington.

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