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No. 15 Minutewomen hope to keep wins coming

Coming off a big upset win over previously ranked No. 9 Iowa, the Massachusetts field hockey team heads to Albany this weekend to take on two tough opponents in its first road trip of the season.

After leaping from No. 17 to 15 in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll, the Minutewomen (2-1) will try to maintain their highest ranking since the 2000 season.

Though UMass began its season with three consecutive home games, coach Justine Sowry feels the time is right for a change in scenery.

“It’s always fun to get away on your first road trip, take the bus together and recollect especially after the first week of school,” Sowry said.

UMass will first face a recognizable Albany team on Friday, which began the season with an impressive start. The Minutewomen will then see an unfamiliar but strong foe on the field in No. 12 James Madison on Saturday.

Albany (3-0) comes into Friday’s game recording three 2-0 shutouts over Hofstra, Radford and Bucknell. Freshman Kristi Troch is 2-0 with four saves, while junior Christine Hoffman is 1-0 with seven saves in a timeshare in goal.

Coach Sowry realizes that Albany’s defense has played extremely well but is confident that the Minutewomen’s attack, can be the first team to put up a score against the Great Danes.

“Our goal is to get return in the circle so if we can’t get off a good shot, we can earn a penalty corner. Our penalty corner right now is on fire and I’m sure that will continue,” Sowry said.

The Minutewomen are familiar with Albany as the two teams have played in each of the past two seasons, splitting a game apiece.

“The last couple years the games against Albany have been tough and physical,” Sowry said. “They’re undefeated and we’re playing at their house so they’ll be motivated.”

This will be the first time however, that UMass plays JMU in 10 years. Though the Dukes defeated the Minutewomen, 1-0, at Totman Field in their last meeting, UMass holds a 5-3 lead in the series, which dates back to 1989.

The defending Colonial Athletic Association champs are 2-1 to begin the season after picking up wins against Ohio State and Kent State. Offensively, the production has been spread around as the Dukes’ five goals were scored by four different players.

Senior goalie Kelsey Cutchins has been the anchor of the defense, posting a 1.67 GAA and an impressive .848 save percentage while playing every minute this season.

“JMU is a good team with a good goalkeeper and they are very well coached,” Sowry said. “They bring a different style of play so we’ll see what happens.”

Coach Sowry knows if the Minutewomen can stay relaxed and calm, they have a great foundation and structure in place to be successful not only this weekend, but the rest of the season.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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