Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s lacrosse set to face Albany Wednesday afternoon at Garber Field

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(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

When the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team takes Garber Field against Albany Wednesday afternoon, the Minutewomen know they must bring their A-game to prevent the same result as last year.

The Great Danes (3-2) handed UMass (6-1) its only regular-season loss a season ago at John Fallon Field in Albany, New York. The Minutewomen’s four goals in that game were their fewest total in any contest that season. The only other team they lost to in 2015 came in the second round of the NCAA tournament against top-ranked Maryland.

“They’re always a talented team,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “We really have to be on top of our game whenever we play them.”

Last season, Albany was ranked 20th in the country coming into its game against the Minutewomen. UMass was in the midst of another dominant regular season being undefeated at this time, but was not the favorite against one of the best defensive units in college lacrosse.

This season’s matchup is a bit of a different story.

This year, the Minutewomen are the ones ranked 19th nationally. They are coming off two momentous back-to-back road wins against Michigan and Connecticut, with the win against the Huskies the first for UMass against a ranked team this season.

After staggering out of the gates this year, the Great Danes have outscored their last two opponents 28-3. One of their two losses was against No. 4 North Carolina, one of the nation’s top programs year in and year out.

Despite their most recent successes, Albany is weaker in some areas than they have been in past seasons. Its proficiency in draw controls and ground balls has lacked this year, which is an area that the Minutewomen excel in. UMass midfielder Hannah Murphy, last year’s Atlantic 10 midfielder of the year, has already won 40 draw controls this season, good for sixth in the nation at a mark of 5.71 draw controls per game.

“We always try to win the possession game,” McMahon said. “Draw controls and ground balls are always a huge focus of ours, and even when we don’t execute our defense is great at really pushing and getting the ball back. We try to play as a team and with great intensity.”

Both the Minutewomen and the Great Danes are coming off a week abundant with accolades and milestones. Sophomore attacker Holly Turner was named A-10 co-player of the week, and fellow attacker junior Callie Santos was dubbed the conference’s defensive player of the week.

For Albany, graduate student midfielder Rachel Bowles, who was named to this year’s Tewaaraton Watch List alongside UMass’ Erika Eipp, became the program’s all-time leader in points in the team’s last game, scoring her 193rd career point. Bowles was named a second team all-American prior to the 2016 season, and is only 14 goals behind her school’s all-time leader.

Wednesday afternoon’s matchup should be closely contested, and will likely feature much more defensive action than offensive. In last year’s contest, the teams combined for a mere 11 goals in a 7-4 Great Dane victory. This season, UMass ranks second nationally in scoring defense, and seventh in forced turnovers, causing 11.86 per game. On the other hand, Albany ranks seventh in turnovers made, with just 11.4 per game.

Great Dane goalkeeper Courtney Henderson sports a goals against average of 7.06, while starting UMass goalie freshman Sam Walters has a GAA of 5.14. If not for the fact that Walters splits games with the equally effective Aileen Kelly, her GAA would lead all other goalies in the nation.

Wednesday’s game is set to start at 3:00 p.m.

Henry Brechter can be reached at [email protected]

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