January 17, 2014

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#LMRanks: No. 16 UMass Minutewomen (WD1)

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Katie Ferris returns already holding the UMass record for points. Can she lead the team past the NCAA second round for the first time in history this spring? (UMass Athletics)

Previous: No. 17 Denver Pioneers

Vitals

2013 Record: 18-3 (7-0 Atlantic 10)
Coach: Angela McMahon, 4th Season
Record at UMass: 54-8

Top Returner

A Katie Ferris (Sr.)
Already the all-time leading points scorer in Umass history, Ferris had 75 points for a Minutewomen team that scored nearly 15 goals a game in 2013. The two-time Atlantic-10 Offensive Player of the Year is already one of the best ever in school history, but will cement that status if they can improve upon their NCAA second-round showing this spring.

X-Factor

D Kelsey Sheridan (Sr.)
A two-year starter on defense, Sheridan is the fastest player on the team according to coach Angela McMahon and will be called upon to slow down many opponent's top offensive threat this spring. A midfielder in high school, Sheridan can also push in transition with her speed.

NCAA Tournament Trend

2009 - First Round
2010 - First Round
2011 - Second Round
2012 - Second Round
2013 - Second Round

What's New?

For a team that returns most of its personnel on both sides of the field, the one big loss is feeding, as both Cori Murray and Lauren Terracciano graduated. Both ranked in the Top 50 for Division I in assists last year, with Murray (31) 28th and Terracciano (25) 43rd. But things aren't looking too bad for others to step up, since there were three players (Katie Ferris, Sam Rush and Tanner Guarino) with 20 or more that return for 2014.

Telling Number?

6.52
The Minutewomen ranked in the Top 10 nationally for both goals per game and goals against average in 2013, scoring a whopping 6.52 more than they gave up (14.76 vs. 8.24). With the majority of that team back, can they match that dominating performance?

Enemy Lines

"Angela McMahon's team is always prepared for their opponent, plays a scrappy style, and finds ways to win. Expect more of the same in 2014... Could be in the top ten with a couple of key wins this year... Return the majority of their NCAA tournament team. They need to be consistent down the home stretch as some A10 teams played them close."

"The most important thing for us is that we focus on the fact that it's a new team, even though we return a bulk of players from last year. We don't pick up anything where we left off. Anything we get this year is going to come from the hard work that we put in, not what happened before."

-UMass head coach Angela McMahon

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: The Angela McMahon era at UMass continued its roll with another strong season and Atlantic 10 title. Katie Ferris (52G, 23A) and defender Kelsey McGovern earned All-American status as the Minutewomen finished a third straight season with a perfect record in league play. After early season losses to Northwestern and Boston University, UMass ripped off 15 straight wins, winning the A-10 tourney and besting southern neighbor UConn in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling in the second round to host Penn State.

High Point: Making the NCAA tournament has become a habit under McMahon, and the Minutewomen advanced to the second round for the third time in as many seasons by topping UConn – where she coached in 2009 and 2010 before taking the Massachusetts job. Connecticut had a banner season in the Big East and came in ranked No. 18, making it all but a pushover first-round contest.

Low Point: The only loss to an unranked team all season came early when Boston University took an overtime win over UMass on a rainy March afternoon. The loss was just one of four times in the year the Minutewomen were held to single digits, but it was the last time that happened until May when Penn State held them to nine in the NCAA second round.

2014 Outlook

Best Case: With the bulk of the team returning from last year's 18-3 campaign, there's a lot of reasons for optimism in Amherst. A boatload of offense is back, with Ferris joined by 65-goal scorer Sam Rush on attack and midfielders Guarino (26, 22) and Melissa Carelli (26, 22). McGovern anchors the defense after a 110 draw control and 28 caused turnover season with Morgan Walker also returning as a starter.

"The most important thing for us is that we focus on the fact that it's a new team, even though we return a bulk of players from last year," McMahon said. "We don't pick up anything where we left off. Anything we get this year is going to come from the hard work that we put in, not what happened before."

The Atlantic 10 has become their personal playground in recent years, and they're the favorite once again, with non-conference tilts with Connecticut, Boston University and Northwestern likely to help boost their strength of schedule and hopefully aid in earning a seed for the NCAA tournament if they perform as expected in their league and earn the AQ.

Worst Case: Expectations of success are one thing – finding the right team chemistry can be another.

"We certainly have talented players, but that doesn't translate to a talented team," McMahon said. "We have to make sure we have that team-first mentality and do the hard work."

The non-conference slate is solid, but if the Minutewomen don't gel early – Vanderbilt and UConn open the year with Boston University also coming in February and Northwestern visiting in late March – those won't help much if they're 0-4. And while they've dominated their league, you never want to leave it to chance that you'll pick up an AQ if you don't finish the job in the conference tournament.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at#LMRanks.


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