Defense paying dividends for Minutewomen
The ability to grind out and win close, contested games is what makes up the identity of the Massachusetts field hockey team this season.
Nine of the twelve games the No. 10 Minutewomen have played up to this point have been decided by one goal, with UMass coming out on top in seven of those games. The two games the Minutewomen dropped were a 3-2 loss against Boston University and a 2-1 heartbreaker in overtime against No. 9 Boston College.
“As a coach, I do not prefer them,” UMass coach Justine Sowry joked, “but our players do respond in those types of games.”
The down-to-the-wire contests have been the result of a combination of strong defense, and at times, lack of offense. Discounting an offensive outburst in a 7-1 victory over Quinnipiac, the Minutewomen have tallied four or more goals in a game on only two seperate occasions. Despite having 25 more shots on goal than its opponents for the season, UMass has been unable to capitalize on many scoring chances.
“In terms of our offense, we need to be able to execute under pressure, and that’s what were not doing,” Sowry said. “Scoring more goals is something we need to focus on if we’re going to go deep into the tournament. Sometimes, we play with an attitude that we’ll get another opportunity, so we need to work on taking advantage of opportunities when we get them.”
Missed chances are not the only reason why the offense has been hurting lately, as the Minutewomen have been hampered by injuries and fatigue.
“We have a small squad right now, and we’re unable to interchange much on the bench, so we’re very tired and it’s very obvious,” Sowry said.
Though the offense has been sufficient enough to bring the Minutewomen a 9-3 record, the real strength of the team has been its defense. Five of the nine games decided by one score have ended, 1-0, in favor of UMass.
After recording seven shutouts last season, sophomore All-American Alesha Widdall has already held six teams scoreless this year. Widdall and the rest of the defense have held opponents to a 0.094 shot percentage, and have relinquished only three goals in 110 Amoxicillin 500mgTadalafil + Dapoxetine 20mg + 60mg Cialis Super Force is a combination medication of tadalafil and dapoxetine used for the treatment of male impotence and premature ejaculation. penalty corner chances.
“Our team defense in those close contests is something we really relish and perform well in,” Sowry said. “Whatever opponents we come up against, we know that we have a strong defensive unit, and that’s going from the forward line all the way back to the goalkeeper.”
The defensive culture has only been around as recently as 2007 though, the same year Sowry was appointed head coach of the Minutewomen. The season prior to her arrival, UMass was 6-14 and allowed an average of 2.77 goals per game. The three years since, UMass has allowed an average of 1.08, 1.09, and 1.25 scores per game, respectively.
“We defend the goal as if our lives depended on it, and we compete for every second of every game until we come out with the desired result,” Sowry said. “That’s just how the team’s been built from day one.”
Whether they prefer to play in close games or not, the Minutewomen have proven that they can close out opponents under pressure. If the offense is able to catch up to the defense, and the team is able to get back to full strength, the remaining games might not be so competitive.
Jay Asser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.