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UMass clashes with Harvard in continued rivalry

A long time rivalry will be renewed Tuesday when the Massachusetts field hockey team travels to Cambridge to face Harvard – its longest road stretch of the season.

The No. 9 Minutewomen (8-3) had a string of home games to begin the year and close the season with four out of five games in Amherst. However, UMass is currently in the middle of its schedule, where seven of its eight games are on opposing teams’ fields.

Harvard is the first of four opponents in the upcoming road stint for the Minutewomen. Having played every season for the past decade, the two teams are familiar with each other.

“Harvard is a little younger this year, but they’re still a quality team,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “They are very good on their home field, and they are going to be motivated.”

The Crimson (4-4) enter the game with momentum after snapping their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime victory against Brown on Saturday.

After playing strong to begin the season, the Harvard defense is currently struggling to hold opponents to low scoring games. In their first three wins, the Crimson allowed a total of four goals, but during the four-game losing streak, the defense allowed an average of five goals per game. The recent vulnerability of Harvard on its own end of the field should open up opportunities for the Minutewomen attack.

While Harvard is a team that UMass should beat, Sowry doesn’t want the Minutewomen to take the Crimson for granted and look forward to upcoming games with conference play on the horizon.

“We can’t think ahead to UConn. We have to take it one day, one game at a time.”

Since 2001, the Crimson hold an edge in the matchup with five wins to three for the Minutewomen. All five wins, though, have come from 2001 to 2005. UMass has controlled the rivalry in the last three years, playing in only one closely-contested game, which came last season in a double overtime affair.

It took 99 minutes to decide the outcome with the teams deadlocked in a 2-2 tie. The Minutewomen were in command throughout both overtimes and finally broke through with one minute, 43 seconds left in the second extra period for the 3-2 win.

UMass captain and leading scorer, Katie Kelly, isn’t looking for a repeat of last year’s game though, and hopes her team can take care of business without exerting too much energy.

“Hopefully it won’t be as close as last time and we’ll pick up our game, make it our game the whole time, and finish it in regulation to get the job done.”

Fatigue has factored into the play of the Minutewomen, but so far UMass has been able to handle it. As much as Sowry is trying to keep the players fresh, she understands that exhaustion is an inevitable cause for concern.

“We are going to continue to battle our fatigue, and mentally, we’re going to have to bring it,” she said. “When we get fatigued, we make mistakes that we can’t afford to make and eventually our luck will run out.”

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

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