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January 21, 2017

Field Hockey defeats Harvard, 1-0

Despite a late charge by Harvard and a last-second shot, the Massachusetts Field Hockey team came out on top at Harvard, 1-0, behind a strong defense and UMass’ first penalty stroke of the year.

With eight minutes remaining in the first half, the No. 10 Minutewomen were awarded a penalty corner that set up a Makaela Potts’ shot. The junior’s shot was blocked but found the stick of captain Katie Kelly, who rifled a shot at the net.

As the shot was on its way to finding the back of the net, a Harvard (4-5) defender stepped in the way, preventing the goal and giving UMass (9-3) a penalty stroke.

“The penalty was given for the ball hitting a defender on the line, on the foot,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said after the win. “We gave it to Makaela who was having a great game and she executed it perfectly.”

Potts beat the Crimson’s goalkeeper, Cynthia Tassopoulos, placing the ball on the inside of the right post for the score. The goal was Potts’ fifth of the season.

“Makaela Potts, without a doubt, had a very solid game,” Sowry said.

Sowry also praised the efforts of Kelly who was tied for the team lead in shots with five – Potts also had five – and led the team in shots on goal with four.

“The other contributor that is definitely worth mentioning is Katie Kelly,” Sowry said. “She had a very strong showing today and led by example with a really strong game and giving us a great penetration on the attack.”

The Minutewomen dominated the game in terms of shots, taking 21 to Harvard’s eight and 14 on goal to the Crimson’s four.

The four shots on net were all saved by All-American Alesha Widdall, who recorded her sixth shutout of the season. On the other side of the field, the Crimson’s Tassopoulos stopped 12 of UMass’ shots, keeping the contest close.

“We had a lot of opportunities and I give a lot of credit to their goalkeeper who kept them in the game and kept it a lot closer,” Sowry said.

One of Widdall’s saves came in the last few seconds of the game as Harvard continued to put pressure on until the last second. With three seconds remaining in the game, the Crimson’s Kristin Bannon fired a shot towards UMass’ net. Widdall made a kick save to preserve the 1-0 victory, the fifth win by UMass with that score.

“They just worked really hard, they are a very good passing team and we got caught ball-watching a little bit,” Sowry said of the Crimson. “We were unable to put a lot of pressure on their midfield. They definitely did that well and they were very fast on the counter attack. Fortunately, our deep defenders clean up at the right time.”

The contest came as the third game in four days for the Minutewomen, a stretch where they finished 2-1 – the only loss coming at then-No. 6 Syracuse. Sowry admitted that the team has been somewhat fatigued due to the schedule, but it doesn’t get any easier. UMass has another three games on the road coming up, one with No. 6 UConn looming on Friday.

“It has been a really difficult five days and it is going to continue to be difficult but we have to try and look after our bodies and get treated for the UConn game,” Sowry said. “It is a very important game, the last ranked team that we’re going to play this year and it is a team that we targeted all year, but we’re still going to have to call on all of our reserve tanks and try and put together a stellar performance.”

After UConn, the Minutewomen begin their Atlantic 10 schedule and know they must be healthy as they try to repeat as A-10 Champions.

“After that, we really need to get healthy again and we’ll be taking a number of days off our legs so we can refocus for the A-10 games coming up.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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