A-10 tourney comes to Amherst
Despite hosting the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the Massachusetts field hockey team almost missed out on the action that begins this Friday at Garber Field.
But with two wins and some help this past weekend, the Minutewomen, who were ranked as high as No. 9 in the country at one point this season, squeaked into the tournament, and will now face the No. 1 seed Richmond at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Spiders (11-8, 5-1 A-10) came away with a 1-0 win over UMass (12-8, 3-3 A-10) earlier this season in Amherst, but were facing a Minutewomen team that does not look like the one that will take the field in the tournament. In the later game on Friday, second-seeded Saint Joseph’s will take on No. 3 Temple at 3:00 p.m. The winner of the tournament will play in a play-in game against the winner of the Mid-American Conference for a place in the NCAA Tournament.
The field of four may be ranked one to four with their seeds, but with only six conference games to determine who would make the tournament and how they would be seeded, the seeds mean nothing more than who will face who. The field is a group who is experienced and has been in this position before, with all four teams making the tournament for three straight years.
UMass enters the tournament winning its last three conference games, a must to get into the tournament, but had lost its first three conference matches against the Spiders, SJU (7-10, 4-2 A-10) and Temple (8-11, 4-2 A-10). The losses came at a time when the Minutewomen were hampered by injuries, and with UMass being picked as the favorite to win the conference in the preseason, having stars such as forward Cher King back helps refute UMass’ No. 4-seeding and its under-dog mentality. The Minutewomen also come in with the past two A-10 Championships to their name, both which have come over Richmond.
The Spiders come in winning seven of its last nine games, and is looking for its sixth championship in eight years after taking the A-10 regular season crown this season. Neither the Hawks (1995) nor the Owls (1994) have won a conference title in over a decade, but will be competing for one with UMass and Richmond, who have combined to win the last seven conference championships.
St. Joe’s edged Temple out for the second seed in the tournament with its 4-0 win over the Owls back on Oct. 9. The Hawks used a balanced offensive attack in the victory, getting goals from four different players. St. Joe’s had five players who scored six goals or more on the season, as it ranked third in the conference with 2.43 goals per game. The Hawks give up more goals per game (2.83) than they score, for the third best scoring margin (-.40) in the conference, but that is an issue that the Owls face as well. They have a 1.66 goals per game average and a 2.39 goals against average for a .73 scoring margin.
The winners of Friday’s games will meet in the conference championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.