UMass rekindles old relationships in first round matchup with UConn

By Peter Cappiello

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team’s first round NCAA Tournament matchup is all too familiar for junior attack Katie Ferris.

Sitting with her teammates at the Selection Show viewing party at Amherst Brewing Company on Sunday, Ferris was deafened with applause when Connecticut – the team she almost ended up playing for – was announced as No. 8 UMass’ first round opponent.

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Years before becoming the Minutewomen’s all-time points leader, Ferris originally signed with UConn out of high school, which was led at the time by UMass’ current coach, Angela McMahon.

Once McMahon left for Amherst, Ferris quickly followed suit, but some connections to the program and its players never died.
“I know all of them,” Ferris said following the Selection Show. “A lot of them played on my club team growing up. I still talk to them like every day. There’s just a lot of ties, it’s exciting.”

For McMahon, it’s a unique opportunity to go up against her old team and even some of her former players.

“It’s special,” McMahon said. “I’m really proud of how a lot of those players are doing and they’re just having a great career. (Current UConn coach) Katie Woods has done a great job since I left, she was Big East Coach of the Year this year and is just doing a great job of getting that team to play together, motivated, inspired – they’re on a mission.”

Putting all of the emotion and past relationships aside, UMass understands that now is not the time to feel satisfied and that there is plenty of work still to be done.

“We’re not ready to end our season yet, we’re not ready to go home yet,” senior Lauren Terracciano said on Sunday. “Being a senior makes it all real once you really look at the situation and realize this could be your last game, but that’s why we’re gonna give it all the more energy and intensity and excitement going into the weekend.”

The rivalry between the Minutewomen (17-2) and UConn (13-4) is just as close as the two schools are in proximity. The Huskies hold a slight 5-3 edge over UMass in eight all-time meetings, but the Minutewomen won the last meeting in 2010, an 18-8 win at UConn.

But history hasn’t been on UMass’ side lately. The Minutewomen haven’t made it past the first round since 1984. In recent years, that has been attributed to tough draws in the first round, including last year when they were forced to take on No. 3 Maryland.

This year has a different feel to it, however.

“(The Selection Show) went really well for us,” Ferris said. “We’re not used to that. I remember last year hearing who we were gonna play against and no one said a word. It’ll definitely be fun, this game.”

There is a sense of excitement surrounding UMass that this could finally be the year that they get over the hump.

“They’re having a great season and I’m looking forward to getting them out of their element and showing them UMass lacrosse,” Terracciano said. “Just with our high-pressure defense, high-pressure attack, we just have a lot of ammo. We don’t just have one player, every single one on the field is capable of doing something great and I think that will show on Friday.”

For the Minutewomen to be successful in getting through the first round, they will need to rely on what has carried them all season. UMass possesses strengths on both sides of the field that have been the keys to their successful season.

The Minutewomen rank fifth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 15.11 goals per game, while only surrendering 7.95 goals per game on the defensive end, good for seventh in the nation.

With another opportunity to get past the first round, Ferris wasn’t shy in stating what it would mean for this team to finally accomplish the feat.

“Oh my gosh, it would mean a lot,” Ferris said. “And I’ve been wanting to do it since I’ve been here, so personally it would mean a lot to me and for our program, it would be awesome.”

Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Penn State Lacrosse Field. The winner will then take on the winner of the No. 7 Penn State vs. Canisius on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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