Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Last season’s NCAA tournament run provides momentum for UMass women’s lacrosse

All eyes on the prize: ten straight Atlantic 10 titles

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For some athletes, this will be their first season playing on Garber Field—Massachusetts women’s lacrosse’s home turf. Others are already integrated into the winning culture of the program, which has repeatedly brought the Minutewomen into the highest level of competition this past decade.

After a 17-4 record in 2017 and a run to the second round of the NCAA tournament, there are few achievements left to accomplish. Players new and returning all share in the ever-growing expectations of their team. In the past seven seasons, Massachusetts Women’s Lacrosse has been unblemished against all opponents in the Atlantic 10.

However, the possibility of snapping any one of their impressive streaks, or even the tournament loss to Navy last year, are not lingering thoughts for these players. It’s clear that this roster of 36 have one thing driving them: winning their 10th straight A-10 championship.

“What’s really exciting about this season is going for our 10th straight A-10 Championship,” said redshirt junior Kiley Anderson. “It’s something that, since the beginning of September, we’ve been working toward every single day. I have my sights set straight on that.”

Without looking exhaustingly far into the future, or demanding perfection, these players go into practice excited to play the game. They know that it’s a new season in many aspects. They know that beyond the expectations most people associate with them, there is much more about this season’s team that make them who they are.

Coach Angela McMahon is leading the operation. McMahon’s players have made it to the NCAA tournament all seven seasons under her. Now in her eighth year, she aims to adjust to new rules and an increased roster size to improve on her already impressive 128-18 record.

To help her take on these new tasks are new assistant coaches Zoe Ochoa and Jana Drummond, along with a volunteer coach. Ochoa looks to bring a fresh perspective, as she recently finished her playing career with Boston College. Drummond formerly coached at Marist College, and hopes to work side-by-side with UMass’ defense.

With a trio of the Minutewomen’s core defense from last year gone, along with other seniors, it will be interesting to see if they are able to keep the volume of opponent scoring to a minimum. McMahon has a grasp of exactly the situation they are in, yet is still optimistic.

“Kirsten Lomanto, Alex Flobeck and Kasey Keane are all seniors that are playing very well now defensively,” McMahon said, “They might not have been full time in the past but they’ve had some really great experience. It’s honing in on that but it’s more so developing their voices as leaders. All through the fall they’ve been developing that chemistry amongst themselves on defense.”

One rising star is sophomore Lauren Hiller, from North Andover, Massachusetts. In the cage, Hiller exerts high confidence and aggression that her coach believes will lead to the success of her back line. Relying on speed, athleticism and Hiller to protect the net, UMass will look to be extra versatile in their defensive formations this season in order to gain an edge on its competition.

McMahon has high praise for her goalie, an All-Rookie selection last season: “I think that she’s playing some of her best lacrosse right now.”

Leading the team in goals last year and returning, Hannah Burnett is quite a force on the field. Picking up right where she left off, Burnett scored six goals on the way to the Minutewomen’s first win in their home opener. In fact, home field advantage is going to be a point of emphasis for UMass this season.

“Whenever we’re at home we have such good energy, so we are looking to bring that energy but also have that poised confidence,” said McMahon. “I think the energy our players bring on the field, off the field and on the bench really carry us through home games. We want to show our program, our alumni and all the people that make our program successful that we’re going out there to play the best we can at home.”

The team came out focusing on catching momentum for the opener. Unfortunately, their remaining 16 games will include only five more games at Garber Field.

Other players to look out for include senior midfielder Abby Walker and 2017 A-10 Offensive Player of the Year winner Holly Turner. Not only are their efforts impactful on the field, but off the field as well. Walker worked hard with All-American Hannah Murphy—who played for UMass last year—on draws, and continues to work at the specialized skill with underclassmen.

For a team with 13 freshmen, it will be important for the Minutewomen to find leadership in all forms. They hope to find the same success as previous years in new ways, and of course, are searching for that tenth straight A-10 Championship one step at a time.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JustinJEkstrom.

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