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UMass looks to extend three-game win streak

Returning home after having a successful first road trip, the Massachusetts field hockey team faces another difficult weekend with two non-conference opponents in Northeastern and Boston College.

The Minutewomen (4-1) are continuing to rise in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll, debuting at No. 11 this week after posting a pair of 1-0 shutout victories on the road last weekend.

This is the highest UMass has been ranked since reaching No. 8 in the Nov. 7, 2000 poll.

The results of this season have not surprised coach Justine Sowry, who feels that her team is prepared to face any opponent in any game.

“It all started with having a belief a couple years ago and along with that belief it’s a lot of hard work and determination,” Sowry said. “We prepare the team well from what we actually do with the ball to what the opponent is potentially going to bring against us.”

This weekend, both opponents will bring a lot to the table when they square off against the Minutewomen.

Northeastern enters Saturday’s game with four consecutive victories after beginning its season with two losses. One of the four wins for the Huskies came against Boston University, the only team that tripped up UMass for a loss this season.

Northeastern will look for redemption after the Minutewomen were able to break a seven-game drought against the Huskies with a 2-1 win in their only meeting last season.

Though Northeastern is first on the schedule, a matchup with Boston College looms large on Sunday. The Eagles will be the second No. 9 ranked opponent UMass faces this season, with a 4-3 win coming against then-No.9 Iowa.

Boston College has had a little trouble thus far, trouncing opponents to achieve a 6-0 record. The Eagles’ offense has been high-scoring this season, averaging over five goals a game and tallying seven goals on two different occasions.

For UMass, the defense will have to continue being sharp and sophomore goalkeeper Alesha Widdall will need to build off the success she’s had this season if the Minutewomen plan on slowing down the Eagles.

“We’ve been keeping composed and keeping the ball out of net and all of the players have played very mature and impressive the last couple games,” Sowry said. “If you look how the games went last weekend, we absorbed a tremendous amount of pressure in terms of statistics. Defending against 34 corner shots says a lot about our defense right now.”

Though this is arguably the biggest game of the season for UMass, Boston College has their own test in Maryland this Saturday.

Undoubtedly, the Eagles will have had Maryland circled on their schedules as they are the defending national champions and No. 1 ranked team.

Sowry knows that there’s potential for the Eagles to have a letdown after being fired up for the most important game of their season, but isn’t counting on it.

“It would be nice if Maryland took [BC] to overtime, but we still have to take care of business on our end of things,” Sowry said. “It’s the old cliché, one game at a time, and we’re focused on Northeastern right now.”

Regardless of which team the Minutewomen will play first, these two matchups promise to provide both a high level of play and excitement. Sowry was able to sum up the expectations for this weekend in only six words.

“It’s going to be a barnburner.”

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

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