‘We don’t have any more days promised’: UMass women’s lacrosse understands stakes of NCAA Tournament matchup with Johns Hopkins

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2023 7:21 PM

AMHERST – Losing the Atlantic 10 championship game against Richmond reminded the UMass women’s lacrosse team of lessons it didn’t follow as rigidly in the preceding 15-game winning streak. A third quarter lull the Minutewomen usually worked through turned into a fatal hiatus as the Spiders pulled away.

“Every single minute on that field matters, going after every single ball and just playing hard and going back to our fundamentals,” UMass defender Audra Tosone said.

No. 16 UMass has at least one more test to prove it learned the correct lessons. The Minutewomen (16-2) open the NCAA Tournament at 2 p.m. Friday against Johns Hopkins (8-8) at Syracuse’s soccer stadium (ESPN+). The winner will face the No. 2-seeded Orange at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“We don't have any more days promised,” UMass attacker Fiona McGowan said.

The Minutewomen have reached the past three NCAA Tournaments and sweated out the selection show in 2022 and 2023 after losses in the conference final. Sunday’s wait at the airport caused less stress than last season’s.

“We were all pretty confident we’d get a bid based on how our season went,” Tosone said.

Now it’s a matter of what UMass does with it. The Minutewomen have lost in the first round each of the past two years after reaching the second round in 2017 and the Elite 8 in 2016. They’ve never faced Johns Hopkins before. The No. 19 Blue Jays haven’t played since an April 29 loss against Rutgers in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

Johns Hopkins faced eight ranked teams, including five in the top 10, and went 2-7 in those matchups.

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“That’s the purpose behind the scheduling, let’s challenge ourselves throughout the year. Let’s put ourselves in a position where we’re playing the best week in and week out and competing at a high level,” said Blue Jays coach Tim McCormack, a UMass goalie from 2008-12. “Let’s do it with the mindset that we’re gonna grow each and every week and every day we’re together. Whatever we’re faced with this time of year, we’re ready.”

Johns Hopkins senior Maeve Barker, a Needham native, was named to the All-Big Ten second team after 23 goals and 41 points. Her 18 assists tied for the team lead. Freshman Ava Angello led the Blue Jays with 46 points and 34 goals.

“They've definitely had a really tough schedule, so they've had that experience playing those tougher teams and having those games,” McGowan said. “I think they definitely know how to handle the pressure, and they come out hard for anybody.”

UMass, meanwhile, has only faced two ranked teams and split those games losing to No. 3 Boston College in the second game of the season and besting Richmond during the regular season. The Minutewomen demolished everyone else, though, winning by an average of 7.5 goals per game.

McGowan leads the team with 90 points, 43 goals and 47 assists. Her 2.61 assists per game rank sixth nationally. UMass also boasts two more 40-goal scorers in Alex Finn (42) ,the most accurate shooter in the country at 66.7 percent, and Charlotte Wilmoth (42). Three more UMass players have poured in at least 30 goals.

The Minutewomen also rank third in the nation picking up ground balls (20 per game) and are tied for sixth in scoring defense allowing 8.39 goals per game.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>