UMass women’s lacrosse hits the road in search of sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10

By Nick Souza

Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian
(Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team heads to Virginia this weekend in search of sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10, with a game against George Mason in Fairfax followed by a trip to the nation’s capital to face George Washington on Sunday.

The Patriots (7-2, 2-0 A-10) are the lone remaining unbeaten in conference play along with the Minutewomen (9-1, 2-0 A-10), meaning Friday’s winner will be in the drivers seat to win the A-10 championship.

The Patriots bring in a well-balanced team on both offense and defense that ranks just a couple spots behind UMass in almost every major statistical category within the conference.

“They’re just a well-balanced and well-coached team, and they’re going to take it to us and give us a good game and we just have to be ready to play the best 60 minutes that we can,” Minutewomen coach Angela McMahon said.

Turnovers will be a major point of contention, with George Mason averaging just 14 per game which trails only Richmond in the A-10.  Meanwhile, the Minutewomen lead the A-10 in caused turnovers per game with 12.1.

“They’re a disciplined team and they take care of the ball, and they don’t rush anything,” McMahon said. “Where we like to be fast paced and be aggressive especially in transition”.

Sophomore attacker Holly Turner is aware of how important the turnover game will be and she and the rest of the team have been preparing for it.

“We’ve been doing a lot of different stick work and working on taking better care of the ball. A major point on offense for this game is to be efficient and capitalize on our attacking plays,” Turner said.

Defensively, UMass is faced with the task of trying to break the comfort zone of the slow, conservative offense of George Mason.

Senior defender Amber Tobin understands how the Patriots will approach this game and she believes that the Minutewomen defensive line is ready.

“We’re going to stick to a defense that we’ve used before and tweak it to fit their offense. We’re looking to be more aggressive than we need to be because we know their offense likes to stall it,” Tobin said.

When these two teams met last year in Amherst, UMass was successful in dictating the pace and getting off to a hot start, opening with an 8-0 run on its way to a 17-7 victory. McMahon is confident that her team can produce a similar result this year.

“We’ve done a good job playing teams like them all year, and with our defensive back line being as good as it is and our overall athleticism has really allowed us to be aggressive and take more risks,” McMahon said.

A victory over the Patriots would give the Minutewomen the NCAA record for most consecutive conference wins, breaking the previous mark of 38 set by Northwestern in the American Lacrosse Conference from 2005-2011.

However, McMahon said it’s not something that’s gained traction with the team.

“I actually didn’t know about the record, we don’t really try to focus on things like that, we just focus on ourselves,” Tobin said.

Possible trap in D.C.

The Minutewomen will stick around the Washington, D.C. area – Fairfax is just 20 minutes outside the capital – for the weekend for the game on Sunday against the Colonials.

With George Washington (2-8, 0-2 A-10) struggling so far this season with a league-worst two wins, the Minutemen have to be careful not to overlook the Colonials.

McMahon showed little about a possible trap game on a quick two-game weekend.

“Every year when we go into our conference schedule having Friday-Sunday games, as a staff we know what we need to do to get the team ready,” McMahon said. “We don’t take any opponent lightly, and we prepare the same for every game no matter what”.

Both Tobin and Turner shared coach McMahon’s thoughts and expanded on them.

“I think that game actually requires more focus because if it isn’t a high pressure game then we need to make sure we keep our winning mentality up,” Tobin said.

“Going into both game we’re going to need to maintain the same intensity and focus to continue to push the ball and make every game count,” Turner added.

The opening draw against George Mason is set for 6 p.m. Friday, and noon on Sunday versus George Washington.

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected]