UMass Focuses on Defense After Second-Round Blowout

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Senior attacker Holly Turner led UMass last season with a team-best 89 points on a well-balanced 44 goals and 45 assists.


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Women’s Preseason Top 20 on Jan. 8. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com throughout January and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition that mails to US Lacrosse members Feb. 1 — opening day of the 2018 college lacrosse season.

No. 18 UMass

2017 Record: 17-4 (9-0 Atlantic 10)
Coach: Angela McMahon (8th year)
All-Time Record: 375-239-6
NCAA Appearances: 11
Final Fours: 3
Championships: 1

After surrendering 23 goals in its NCAA second round loss to Navy, UMass has focused on shoring up its defense — which makes senior Kristen LoManto a key figure in its desire to advance further in 2018.

“She’s taken the team on her back,” coach Angela McMahon said.

While the Minutewomen score nearly 16 goals per game, there were times they needed all of them. They remain formidable behind last year's point leader Holly Turner and a strong threat in 6-foot-3 midfielder Kylie Anderson.

“[Anderson's] a big target for us,” said McMahon. “She scores a lot off the catch-and-shoot. I’m confident any time she has the ball.”

UMass will mix in 13 freshmen and a transfer, while holdovers from last season’s team, which upended Colorado in the first round, will provide leadership. Now, it’s about replicating and surpassing last year’s success.

“We don’t really put expectations on any specific player or scoring,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “It’s more about us getting better each and every day that we’re playing. Being more dynamic, make it hard to scout us. We want to increase roles from returning players and ask them to contribute more."






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The Case For UMass

Having one of the best offenses in the nation while losing just five players will make life easier as the Minutewomen transition into the new season. “We have a really large freshman class,” McMahon said. “Having 14 new players was a lot, but they were all ready to play and energetic. I think they grew up a lot in the fall. Our upperclassmen were great about integrating them. I’m excited about the dynamic of having a lot of returners and blending in the younger players.” Four of the top six scorers will return, including Holly Turner at the top with 89 points. It’s one of, if not the best, offenses in the entire nation. It might take some time for new players to adjust, but there’s a lot to be excited about.

The Case Against UMass

While draw controls have been a strength, that might take a drastic hit because Hannah Murphy graduated. “It’s the most essential thing,” McMahon said. “It’s critical. ... We’re in a good place in that we have some players working underneath her and seeing how hard she was training at that craft.” It remains to be seen who is going to take that spot, but it goes without saying that it’ll be tough to replicate Murphy. It’s still an important part of how UMass expects to run its offense, but there may be an adjustment period.

Path to the Playoffs

The obvious favorites for the Atlantic 10 probably have an inside track to the postseason. They’ve won nine conference titles in a row and it’s hard to see that slowing down. The biggest competition will be Richmond, who competed tough in a 13-12 UMass victory in the A-10 championship last season. The rest of the conference has plenty of weak spots, so barring something dramatic, UMass has a clear path to the postseason.

Players To Watch

Holly Turner, A, Sr.
89 PTS, 44.0 SH%

One of the post prolific scorers in the nation, Turner heads into her final season. Playing with a great unit around her, Turner is one of four returners who were leading scorers for the Minutewomen, so she isn’t burdened as the only one trying to find the net.

Kaitlyn Cerasi, A, So.
35A, 71.4 SOG%

Cerasi started every game as a freshman and plays on the same attack line as Turner. According to McMahon, they play off of each other. McMahon also mentioned Cerasi came into fall ball in the best shape she had seen her.

Lauren Hiller, G, So.
43.9 SV%

With junior Sam Walters right on her heels, Hiller is going to have to play strong in the cage. McMahon said they push each other, which leads to someone like Hiller improving every day as an underclassmen. “She’s poised for a great season,” said McMahon. “It will be exciting to see how she unfolds. Having last year built up some confidence.”

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 5th 15.71 GPG
Defense 37th 10.95 GPG
Draws 1st 17.52/game
Ground Balls 15th 20.95/game
Caused TO 7th 11.62/game
Shooting 22nd 45.1%
FP Shooting 3rd 53.8%
Yellow Cards 9th 41
Assists 2nd 9.57/game
Turnovers 55th 16.90/game
Shots 8th 34.86/game

Power Ratings (Scale of 1-5)

Offense
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Defense
⭐⭐⭐

Goalkeeping
⭐⭐⭐

Draw
⭐⭐⭐

2

Goalies vying for the starting position – redshirt senior Sam Walters and sophomore Lauren Hiller. The goaltending department is going to be one of the most interesting areas for the Minutewomen this season. Hiller impressed as a freshman in her 21 starts, but Walters appears to be getting an equal chance to play. In limited time last season, Walters saved three of five shots. Both are hungry for playing time. If Hiller struggles early, there could be a short leash.

5-Year Trend
Wins

Year

Wins

2013 18
2014 18
2015 19
2016 20
2017 17

Coach Confidential
Angela McMahon

“It’s the ability to identify and take action in the moment of play. We let up a lot of goals, struggled on draws [against Navy to end the season] and had that collapse where things spiraled out of control. The thing I like about having a lot of returners is they saw that, they learned from it, and the experience through that is identifying what needs to be changed on the field.”

Enemy Lines
Rival Coaches

“Who will be the next person to step up for UMass? ... Scrappy and aggressive. Believe in their style. ... Lost force on the draw and standout middie Hannah Murphy as well as Callie Santos, but return top two scorers in Holly Turner and Hannah Burnett.”

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