Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Draw controls and ground balls will be key in the UMass women’s lacrosse game against Albany Wednesday

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(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team will be looking to beat Albany in every aspect of the game on Wednesday, but it starts in the center circle for the Minutewomen.

UMass (6-1) has recorded 85 draw controls in their first seven games of the season averaging 12.14 per game. This vastly outnumbers the 44 for the Great Danes (3-2) who average just 8.8.

Additionally, Albany has also allowed opponents to control 54 draws with an average of 10.8 per game showing a point of vulnerability.

Controlling the draw has been a major aspect of the game for the Minutewomen all season.

“Our focus has always been ‘win the draw, win the game.’ We work on it a lot,” junior midfielder Hannah Murphy said. “If you have more draw controls at the end of the game, you typically win the game.”

Murphy has been the primary option on the draw for UMass the entire season so far, accounting for 40 of the teams 85 and by far leading the team. Averaging 5.71 per game she leads the Atlantic 10 and is sixth in the nation.

“(Murphy) is the kind of player that thrives in a situation like this when she is a major key to the game,” Minutewomen coach Angela McMahon said.

Draw controls will be vital against the Great Danes, who like to hold the ball on long possessions and grind out the defense of their opponents.

“We want to avoid that kind of a game, that’s why we apply so much pressure on defense and push the pace of the game offensively and create a lot of shots and scoring chances on offensively,” McMahon said. “This year being the last year without a shot clock, the draw is important to keep teams from holding the ball on offense”.

Murphy has been the draw control specialist for the past couple years. Her breakout season came last year as a sophomore with a 113 total draw controls which was the 22nd highest in NCAA history earning her A-10 midfielder of the year honors.

Her success can be attributed to the amount of time she spends practicing it. In addition to regular practice, Murphy spends up to an hour a day working on the draw.

“The draw is something you need to practice and get a lot of reps in to be good at it. Personally I think it helps, and that comes from the coaches also,” Murphy said.

Another major aspect of the game that the Minutewomen need to control is maintaining possession of groundballs.

UMass as a team has accumulated 124 groundballs (17.7 per game) so far this season, with Murphy second in that category with 15 following senior defender Kate Farnham (16).

Albany in contrast has only managed 66 groundballs (13.2 per game) leaving the door open for the Minutewomen to out hustle the Great Danes, and win extra possessions in transition when their pressure defense forces mistakes. It will also help them cover their own.

Murphy is confident in the team’s preparation and approach to winning possession in those situations.

“We’re very feisty and gritty and we have a saying that when we go we go in twos and threes so we’re always supporting each other,” Murphy said.  “I love the one v. one ground ball battle drills in practice”.

UMass is the stronger team in just about every statistical category in this matchup, but it will all depend on their ability to control possessions in the circle as well as in transition.

The opening draw is set for 3 p.m. on Wednesday at Garber field.

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected].

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