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Sowry and Co. look for weekend sweep

With two struggling teams in Vermont and Quinnipiac coming up, the Massachusetts field hockey team will try to avoid a pair of possible trap games on the road this weekend.

The Minutewomen (5-2) are coming off a weekend where they almost defeated their second No. 9 ranked opponent of the season in Boston College (7-1). The near-upset combined with the win Saturday against Northeastern boosted UMass from a previous No. 11 ranking in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll to rounding out the top 10 this week.

Being ranked among the top 10 for the first time since 2000 is a testament to how well UMass has played this season. However, coach Justine Sowry believes that the team must now back up their national recognition with its play on the field for the remainder of the season.

“It’s a great reward for the players and the program, and it’s really been a result of years of hard work and preparation,” Sowry said. “Here on out, I don’t think it necessarily means a great deal unless we perform each game.”

This weekend will show whether the Minutewomen are able to beat the teams. Sowry realizes the potential to overlook both opponents with another significant game against No. 3 Syracuse on the horizon, but feels her team will be prepared to take on the Catamounts and Bobcats this weekend.

“This is a danger week for us and a danger weekend. Having one of the toughest schedules in the country followed up by two lower ranked teams can be very dangerous,” she said. “We’re just revisiting the fact that we must respect our opponents, stick to the game plan, tidy up key areas of our game and bring out our best effort for the weekend.”

UMass will first take on a familiar UVM team on Saturday. The two teams have matched up every season dating back to 2004, with the Minutewomen holding a 3-2 edge this decade.

This season, Vermont has had problems with their offense, and limps into Saturday’s game with a 1-7 record. The Catamounts’ only win this season came against UC Davis (3-5), when they had their best offensive output with three scores. Discounting that game though, UVM has only tallied a total of three goals while being held scoreless in five of its seven losses.

Last season, the Minutewomen and Catamounts were locked in a defensive grind the first half of the game. UMass finally got on the board with a goal 13 minutes into the second half and never looked back, coasting to a 2-0 victory.

Quinnipiac hasn’t been much better this season either, as it enters Sunday’s matchup with UMass searching for its first win. The Minutewomen outshot the Bobcats, 14-9, while the defense shut down the Quinnipiac offense for a 3-0 win last season.

With all of that being said, Sowry feels that Vermont and Quinnipiac have given UMass tough games. Regardless of their records this season, she isn’t discounting the motivation that both opponents will have in knocking off a top 10 team.

“They will certainly be looking to redeem themselves and I think any opponent that plays against a ranked one will bring their ‘A’ game,” Sowry said.

In terms of motivation for the Minutewomen, Sowry dismissed any notion that she had to inspire the team this week in practice.

“It’s just become part of culture that every day, you [have] got to bring your best effort,” she said. “We have a very high standard that we set for ourselves and we’ll just continue to push the team and certain individuals to be the best they can be.”

The Minutewomen have proven they can beat teams on their level as well as rise to the occasion to take down higher ranked opponents this season. After this weekend, we’ll know if they can take care of business against the teams they should beat.

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

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