Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s lacrosse expects strong play from goalies to continue entering road trip

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

While it is early in the season and the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team has yet to face a ranked opponent or play in a road game, it has still been an impressive start to the season for the Minutewomen (4-0). But they will next put their undefeated record to the test Wednesday when they face No. 14 Boston College (2-2) at Chestnut Hill.

UMass’ two-goalie rotation has been particularly impressive for the Minutewomen in their first four games. Both freshman Sam Walters and sophomore Aileen Kelly have seen even playing time with Walters starting and Kelly playing all of the second half in each game.

The two have combined for the highest save percentage (.565) and best goals against average (5.00) in the Atlantic 10.

“We really didn’t know how it was going to go, but I’m really happy with how it has worked,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said.

Individually, Walters ranks third in the A-10 in goals against average at 5.50 and Kelly ranks second at 4.50, showing the Minutewomen’s flexibility at the position.

“They’re both very different goalies and they both give different looks, which I think throws our opponent’s attack off,” McMahon said.

Switching up the defensive looks on BC may be necessary depending on which Eagles team shows up Wednesday.

BC is coming off a two-game skid against Notre Dame and Louisville where they only managed a combined 10 goals. However, in their first two games – both wins – BC scored 18 against Boston University and 19 against Holy Cross. All four of their games have been on the road.

Big shoes to fill

Last year the Minutewomen had the luxury of relying on then-senior Rachel Vallarelli, who posted a .523 save percentage and a 5.77 goals against average in her final year. So far the hole left in the cage by her graduation has been filled effectively.

“Rachel was for sure a great leader and played awesome last year and I got a chance to learn a lot from her,” Kelly said.

“I realized that she left big shoes to fill and I came with the goal to hopefully make them bigger,” Walters added.

The five goals given up per game have UMass ranked fifth in the nation in terms of scoring defense. A major part of this success stems from an experienced defense in front of them, led by seniors Kate and Anne Farnham and Amber Tobin.

“I really have to give credit to the defense,” Kelly said. “They communicate so well and it make so that the shots that I see are much easier to save.”

Despite having to enter halfway into the game with everyone else already playing at game speed, Kelly finds little issue jumping right in.

“I still get warmed up before I go in, same as everyone else, and the defense is super supportive,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t really matter when you go in, you always have to be ready because it can happen at any time.”

With the Eagles’ inconsistent start to the season, it is still unpredictable how much both of these goalies and their defense will be tested. Regardless, the Minutewomen welcome their first road trip and opportunity to face a ranked opponent this season.

“Playing a good opponent is exciting and it could help (Walters and Kelly), and I actually feel really good about our team heading into this game,” McMahon said.

Walters shared the same outlook on Wednesday’s game.

“I’m very excited. This is an opportunity for us to show what we can really do as a team and what we’re made of,” she said.

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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