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UMass advances to A-10’s with weekend sweep

The No. 19 Massachusetts field hockey team claimed its seat in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship this weekend by following a 6-3 victory over La Salle on Friday with a 6-0 win against West Chester on Sunday.

After an offensive showcase secured the two wins that the Minutewomen needed to qualify, the defending conference champions will take the field next weekend when they host this year’s conference championship at Garber Field.

“It’s extremely satisfying [to make the conference tournament]. It’s something that you need to do when you’re hosting your own tournament,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “Even though it was in the back of my mind, I just had to keep the team focused on one day at a time and what we needed to do to win each game. I thought it was some of our best hockey played yet.”

Cher King and Katie Kelly each collected hat tricks over the weekend, with King scoring four goals against La Salle and Kelly scoring three times on West Chester.  This is the third year that King and Kelly have commanded the forward positions together. UMass outscored its opponents 12-3 over the weekend.

The weekend did not begin well for the Minutewomen as La Salle scored one minute into Friday’s contest. UMass proceeded to score the next four goals, all courtesy of King’s stick, and eventually outlasted the Explorers. Sowry said she was pleased with the offense after Friday’s win but the team still needed to improve on defense before Sunday’s game.

“We played individually on defense,” Sowry said. “We tended to jump to the ball as individuals rather than defending as a team.”

Sowry referred to Sunday’s game as the most important game since she has been here. The Minutewomen responded by shutting out a Golden Rams team that was also vying for a playoff berth. The Golden Rams needed to win on Sunday to obtain a spot in next weekend’s festivities. However the Minutewomen let them know early that this game belonged to the home team.

Just 14 seconds into the game, Kim Young dribbled into the right side of the circle and scored on an unassisted goal to give UMass an early 1-0 lead.

“[Young’s goal] certainly made a strong statement. We were able to build confidence from that,” Sowry said.

The Golden Rams were never able to find a rhythm on offense as the Minutewomen controlled the ball for most of the match. UMass outshot West Chester 19-7 and held an 8-3 advantage in penalty corners.

The game featured a great deal of physical play as multiple players hit the turf hard from collisions, sticks to the head and clipping from behind.

“We’re going to lay in a lot of ice over the next couple of days and rest up and then get back to the drawing board and try to put together a good game plan against Richmond,” Sowry said.

The Minutewomen will face the Spiders on Friday for a chance to play in the A-10 conference championship game on Saturday. UMass defeated Richmond, 2-0, last year in the conference finals.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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