UMass women’s lacrosse looks to continue offensive surge heading into A-10 play

By Henry Brechter

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

After soundly winning its last three games by a 43-18 combined margin, the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team looks to carry that momentum into conference play Friday when it squares off against Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

The Minutewomen (7-1), who have not lost an Atlantic 10 game since the end of the 2009-10 regular season and have captured seven consecutive A-10 titles, will look toward its high-scoring offense to continue to carry the load as UMass strives for another undefeated conference record.

The Minutewomen’s smallest margin of victory in a win this season came their last time out against Albany in a 13-7 victory over the Great Danes’ above-average defensive unit. Four of the Minutewomen’s seven wins this season have come by double digits.

“Our focus is usually on moving the ball around and maintaining possession,” UMass midfielder Hannah Murphy said. “We’ve been working on our off-ball movement, which I think we’ve been doing well, but our focus is almost always on passing, moving the ball up and getting shot on net.”

Coming off a 2015 season in which she was named the A-10 midfielder of the year, Murphy has been instrumental in what is yet another successful season so far for the Minutewomen, especially in terms of its offense. After tallying a team-high 113 draw controls last season, Murphy once again leads the team with 49 through eight games in 2016. She has also scored 14 goals and is one of six Minutewomen with double-digit goals on the year.

While UMass has been on an offensive surge for almost the past month since its lone 9-8 loss to No. 14 Boston University on March 2, the Hawks (1-7) have been in a rut on both sides of the ball.

St. Joe’s has had trouble all season on the defensive front and has lost five straight games heading into Friday’s contest. The Hawks have failed to hold a team under 10 goals in any game this season and struggled mightily against the Minutewomen in last year’s contest, falling 16-7. Meanwhile, UMass has once again excelled on defense this year with a combination of experience and youth.

“While we have a lot of experience, we also have a lot of exciting and dynamic new players that I think have made for a great balance,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “I’m really proud of how we’ve worked and improved, and I think we’re really coming together as a unit.

“We’re taking it day by day, but I think we realize how much potential we have together as a group and if we come together the way we’re capable of, I think we can make it farther,” McMahon added.

The Minutewomen have not lost to the Hawks in more than a decade, with their defeat loss coming April 10, 2005. Like the rest of its conference opponents, St. Joe’s has been victimized by the rampant success of the UMass for the past seven regular seasons.

With the Minutewomen’s offense being on a tear and despite the looks of another successful A-10 run ahead, McMahon said UMass remains focused on only the next game on the schedule.

“We try not to focus on it at all, I mean in the backs of everyone’s minds it’s a goal and something we have created as a standard for ourselves, but we really focus on improving and getting better every day, every game.”

Friday’s game will start at 3 p.m.

Henry Brechter can be reached at [email protected].