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UMass women's lacrosse opens season in Los Angeles

Katie Ferris, left, celabrates the goal she made with team mates Kelsey McGovern, right and Danielle Pelletier, center. It was the 12th goal of the game.

GORDON DANIELS Katie Ferris, left, celabrates the goal she made with team mates Kelsey McGovern, right and Danielle Pelletier, center. It was the 12th goal of the game. Purchase photo reprints »

While their classmates and dorm neighbors were getting prepared for the latest New England storm of biblical proportions, the University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team was breaking out its warm weather clothes.

The preseason No. 13-ranked Minutewomen will open the 2013 season in Los Angeles, where they’ll face No. 2 Northwestern today at 6 p.m. and Southern Cal, Sunday at 4 p.m. Both UMass games will be held at USC.

“I’m just looking forward to getting away from this weather,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said Tuesday. The team headed west on Thursday.

The Minutewomen figure to have their hands full with the Wildcats, who are perennially one of the nation’s dominant programs.

“The focus is really on ourselves and what we need to do to perform to the best of our capability. We’ve been really trying to keep it about ourselves,” McMahon said. “If we go out there and play the way we’re capable of playing for 60 minutes, I think when we’re on we can beat anybody.”

UMass beat a lot of people a year ago. With a lot of key players back, the Minutewomen are trying to build off of last year’s 19-2 record. The biggest change will come in goal where sophomore Rachel Vallarelli takes over as starter after the graduation of standout Katie Florence. Vallarelli will have a collection of Kelseys playing in front of her as sophomore Kelsey McGovern and junior Kelsey Sheridan join senior Kelsey Palmer on defense.

“There are a couple of defenders that are going to step into roles that some of the seniors had last year,” McMahon said. “Kelsey Sheridan and Kelsey McGovern have both completely stepped up and are ready to help Kelsey Palmer lead the defensive unit.”

UMass brings back four of its top six scorers from last year, led by junior Katie Ferris, who had 59 goals and 39 assists, and senior Lauren Terracciano, who had 36 goals and 32 assists.

McMahon was proud to see Ferris growing as a leader.

“She talks to everyone on the offensive side and tries to make sure everyone’s on the same page and if not she tries to help them get there,” McMahon said. “She does that on the field and she also takes some of the younger players aside and helps them with some of their individual skills and confidence and things like that. She knows as much as anybody that we have to play as a team. It’s not a one-person show.”

This season is the first for women’s lacrosse at USC. Head coach Lindsey Munday was a teammate of McMahon’s at Northwestern. USC will face Northwestern on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum to officially begin Trojan women’s lacrosse. McMahon said the connections between the three head coaches added to the weekend.

“It’s one of my former teammates and we’re playing against our former coach (Kelly Amonte Hiller). It’s special to do that,” said McMahon, who planned to take her players to the USC-Northwestern game.

McMahon was looking forward to nice weather, seeing old friends and the team’s bus ride through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, but mostly she was eager to coach her team.

“We’ve gone on almost four weeks of training and practicing and being in brutally cold weather,” McMahon said. “I think we’re ready and we’re excited. They’re really fired up.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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