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March 22, 2017

Minutewomen fall to No. 6 Syracuse, bounce back to beat Yale

P.J. Stanley

(P.J. Stanley / Collegian)

Losing games by multiple goals is uncharacteristic of this season’s Massachusetts field hockey team. The No. 9 Minutewomen made several changes after its 5-2 loss at No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday and those changes translated into a 1-0 home win against Yale.

Eileen Seffron’s first career goal came in the 23rd minute of the game off a rebound from a shot by forward Jill Powers. After the goal by UMass (8-3), the play of the Bulldogs (6-4) changed significantly.

The Minutewomen put Yale – who trailed UMass 5-3 in penalty corners in the first half – on the defensive in the first half but the second half was the exact opposite. The Bulldogs pressed harder after halftime, forcing seven penalty corners and outshooting the Minutewomen 9-5.

“We felt the intensity and urgency come back [in the second half], Seffron said. “We felt that if we used each other, we wouldn’t be as tired and we just tried to keep it simple.”

Along with four saves, UMass used another shutout from sophomore Alesha Widdall – her fifth of the season – to withstand the 15-10 shot differential from a Yale team that had a substantially deeper bench (six substitutions) than that of the Minutewomen (three).

The Maroon and White have several different players nursing minor injuries and the fact that it played on the road Saturday and home yesterday with the first of four-straight away games coming tomorrow on one day’s rest can only worsen things.

“From the first minute, it was obvious that our team was very, very fatigued,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said of the win. “We were making silly mistakes…mistakes coming as a result of us being exhausted. I knew it was going to be a battle for the entire game but thankfully we got through it.”

Against the Orange (11-1), the Minutewomen failed to find an answer to forwards Shelby Schraden and Heather Susek. The front-liners scored two goals each on Widdall (six saves) and both of Schraden’s scores came off assists from Susek.

The Orange barraged Widdall with 11 penalty corners – six coming in the first half – but UMass pressed Syracuse goalie Leann Stiver (three saves) in its own way. Christine Cutry slipped into the circle at the 16th minute and took a Kim Young pass in past Stiver. Forward Jill Powers scored minutes later when forward Katie Kelly’s shot deflected off Stiver and she bounced it off the black for her fourth goal of the season.

The Minutewoman goals came at the end of a first half mired by three goals from the Orange in the opening 13 minutes.

Another factor in UMass’ lack-luster play was its lack of depth. The Minutewomen used its starting 11 for entire game, perhaps saving players for the long road-stretch ahead.

The absence of Cher King could also play into the fact that the UMass bench isn’t deep because its usual reserve players are now starting games. King has one goal and three assists this season and her exceptional field vision and stick skills are things that characterize the finesse-oriented Minutewomen.

However, Sowry reiterated the fact that the team is exhausted and that proper rest is key going into the next few weeks, especially with one of its four remaining non-conference opponents being No. 5 Connecticut (11-1) who until yesterday’s loss to Princeton were undefeated.

“We have to look after ourselves,” she said. “We really need to get as much energy stored as possible and be ready to go. We just need to get through the next two games and then we’ll ease off a little bit.”

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@student.umass.edu.

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