AMHERST — In front of what it expects will be a sizable crowd of the supporters at the Boston College Lacrosse Complex, the University of Massachusetts women’s team is hoping to make history.
Since the program was reinstated in 1993, the Minutewomen have never reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, a streak they’ll try to end, beginning with Friday’s 2 p.m. game against Loyola.
The winner will face the winner between Boston College and Bryant, Sunday at 1 p.m.
“To make it one step further would definitely be progress,” UMass senior Katie Ferris said. “But my senior class has our eyes set on getting to the final four.”
This will be UMass’ second meeting with the Greyhounds in the NCAA tournament. In 2011, when the teams’ current seniors were freshmen, Loyola took an early 5-1 lead and coasted past the Minutewomen in Baltimore.
UMass has played in the NCAA tournament every year since then. Coach Angela McMahon liked her team’s experience and approach going into the game.
“They’re focused. They know what the level of intensity and physicality is with your season on the line,” McMahon said. “They’re prepared for that and have been looking forward to this all year. It’s a high risk, high reward situation. I think a lot of our players really thrive in that situation. For a lot of them, it’s the bigger the game the better. We’re going to come ready to go.”
While McMahon said she respected every team in the tournament, she liked her team’s chances against anyone if the 14th-ranked Minutewomen played well.
“When we’re on our ‘A’ game and ready to play and playing as a full team, we’re tough to stop,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. If we show up to play and do our best and work our hardest, I think we can beat anybody.”
Ferris thought UMass was well-positioned to be at peak performance.
“Three games ago against Duquesne, we really started to play the way we needed to play. I think we are where we need to be going into this weekend,” she said. “Everybody has their head where it needs to be right now and we’re done with finals and school. All we have to do right now is focus on lacrosse.”
Loyola arrives in Newton with momentum. After opening the season 2-4, the Greyhounds won 12 straight, including all eight Patriot League regular season games and the conference tournament in their first year in the league.
Loyola lost its final game of the season, but even that was impressive as it nearly upset No. 2 Syracuse, before falling 14-12.
“They’re extremely athletic, physical. They have very talented players,” McMahon said. “They’re going to be ready to go.”
The 12th-ranked Greyhounds have a pair of 75-point scorers in Marlee Paton (49 goals, 26 assists) and Annie Thomas (38 goals, 37 assists), which puts them in a tie for 13th in the nation. Ferris is sixth on that list with 85 points (44 goals, 41 assists).