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No. 10 Minutewomen fail to score on No. 7 UConn for second year in a row

There are times when a strong team seems completely outclassed. At least conference play is on the horizon.

The Massachusetts field hockey team failed to score against Connecticut for the second time in as many seasons. The No. 10 Minutewomen (9-4) couldn’t generate any penalty corners against the No. 7 Huskies (13-1), who preyed on UMass’ weakness of giving up corners. UConn forced 15 penalty corners in the first shutout of the Minutewomen this season, something they struggled with against ranked opponents in particular.

UMass averages 12 corners per-game against ranked opponents this season, and less than 10 overall.

“We were definitely outplayed by a better opponent on the night in [the Huskies],” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “We were really lacking in hustle in terms of losing the ball and getting it back. We seemed pretty evenly matched in the first half and they definitely outran us in the second half.”

The Huskies outshot the Minutewomen, 30-2, including seven shots from leading scorer Loren Sherer, whom UMass undoubtedly scouted heavily leading up to the game. However, the Minutewomen defense contained Sherer for most of the game until she did what she does best – make other players better.

UMass also tried to limit the productivity of Melissa Gonzalez, who has two goals and four assists this season playing center midfield for UConn. Gonzalez and Sherer responded to UMass’ due-diligence by teaming up for Sherer’s 20th goal of the season on a Gonzalez feed from the left side of the circle.

The Minutewomen allowed UConn assists-leaders (12-each) Sherer, Kim Kryzk and Allison Angulo to help on goals. UMass is 0-4 this season when allowing multiple assists.

Minutewoman goalie Alesha Widdall had nine saves in the game, one-shy of tying her season-high.

The UMass defense held strong in the first half, weathering the 13 UConn shots and five penalty corners. The Minutewomen kept the ball out of the circle for the first seven minutes of the game but then the first wave of Husky shots came. Widdall weathered the attack for most of the first half until seven UConn shots off four penalty corners came her way and the Huskies kept the pressure going into the second half.

UMass allowed two corners in the first two minutes of the second half which proved to be costly, as UConn’s first goal came in the 37th minute off the second of the two.

Ten minutes and four penalty corners later, the Huskies scored again on Loren’s assist, and pressure from the Huskies never softened.

The loss to UConn puts the Minutewomen’s record against ranked opponents this season at an even 3-3. Many pinned UMass as a weak underdog against then-No. 7 Iowa, but the Minutewomen pulled off a 4-3 upset in overtime, and if all of Sowry’s players remained healthy this season, the outlook could have been different.

However, conference play is in sight, and last season, the Minutewomen swept all teams on its Atlantic 10 Conference slate.

“We’re excited for the [start of] conference play,” said Sowry. “We’ve had a very tough out-of-conference schedule, and it was always going to be pretty tough along the way but it has absolutely prepared us for the Atlantic 10 schedule. Even though we’re coming off a tough loss, we’ve learned a lot along the way and we’re excited to see what we can bring to the table.”

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

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