UMass faces Vermont in final non-conference test

By Matthew Zackman

Meagan Bowen encounters trouble trying to reach the George Mason goal.  (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
Meagan Bowen encounters trouble trying to reach the George Mason goal. (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

When the Massachusetts’ women’s lacrosse team plays its final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday against Vermont, the name which will remain at the forefront of UMass’ mind is Jessica Roach.

Roach enters Wednesday’s matchup with 49 goals on the season, which is good for second in the entire country. This season, Roach has been held scoreless only once – in a 11-1 loss against Albany – and has scored seven goals on two separate occasions this year.

Roach is the biggest individual challenge that UMass’ second-ranked defense (4.82 goals against per game) will have faced this season. Head coach Angela McMahon recognizes that Roach will be the primary focus of her defense, but emphasized that her defenders will not be so focused on Roach that they forget to matchup with the rest of the Catamount offense that has won six of their last seven games.

“It’s all about making sure that everyone knows where the ball is at all times. Being on the same page and a high level of communication will help that. Also, just supporting each other, because our defense has been the backbone of our team and I am confident that against anyone, we will play together,” McMahon said.

“Our seven should be able to combat (Vermont’s) two or three (best players),” she added.

The Minutewomen (10-1, 3-0 Atlantic 10) defense hasn’t allowed over three goals in the first half of any contest this year and McMahon believes that in order to keep the streak alive, her midfielders and attackers must play a major role in controlling possession against Vermont.

“It’s more of the job of our midfielders and our attackers to win the draw and have solid possessions on offense where we are executing. If we are winning the possession game and having the ball, that’s taking opportunities away from them to score and allowing us to play less defense. The more offense we can play, the better for this type of team,” McMahon said.

After coming off an 18-goal performance on Saturday against St. Bonaventure, UMass will look to apply similar offensive pressure to Vermont (9-4, 2-1 America East) as the Minutewomen have scored 10 or more goals in their past three games.

Katie Ott has scored at least one goal in each of the last seven games alongside Hannah Murphy’s team-high 23 goals.

The matchup between these two New England programs is also a homecoming to former Minutewomen superstar Katie Ferris. Ferris, who graduated in 2014, is in her first season as an assistant coach at Vermont. She is currently UMass’ all-time leader in points, goals and assists.

McMahon is looking forward to reuniting with Ferris despite her former player being on the opposite bench. She sees it as a unique opportunity for Ferris to provide her team with insight on how the Minutewomen play.

“She is relatively familiar with our team, so we are going to have to look for some different options and move the ball and make sure that all seven options when we are offense are a threat,” McMahon said.

McMahon doesn’t believe that Ferris’ presence will create an advantage for the Catamounts.

“Because we graduated so many last year, we have a lot of new players and starters on the field and we are always putting in different schemes and offenses for each game and looking to attack in different areas, so we are dynamic enough to score from anywhere,” she said.

McMahon is looking forward to a competitive game and a final tune up before her team digs into league play.

Wednesday’s game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium.

Matthew Zackman can be reached at [email protected]`