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Minutewomen look for third-straight conference title

In its last meeting, Richmond had the Massachusetts field hockey team’s number.

The Spiders (11-8, 5-1 A-10), with the 1-0 win, handed the No. 19 Minutewomen their fourth straight loss and third shutout in that span.

The contest marked the end of the worst stretch of the season for UMass, in which it dropped from No. 10 in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll to No. 20 in a three week period.

Now, Richmond will get a crack at a Minutewomen squad that isn’t struggling, but thriving and looking like the 2007 team that won the A-10 Tournament for the second straight year.

UMass, who hosts the A-10 tournament this year, will face the Spiders on Friday at Garber Field at 12:30 p.m.

To reach the conference tournament this season, UMass had to win out in its last two A-10 games against La Salle and West Chester. Not only did the Minutewomen step up and claim both victories, but they outscored their opponents by a total of 12-3. The two wins brought their overall season record to 12-8 and conference record to 3-3.

The offense, which was lacking only a few weeks ago, came back to life, and saw multi-scoring games by Cher King, Katie Kelly and Kim Young.

UMass coach Justine Sowry feels the offensive momentum will be extremely beneficial heading into the tournament.

“I believe it’s going to help a whole lot. I think we were in dire need of scoring goals, and just getting the confidence going again,” she said. “I think the last weekend, we gained that confidence, and we’re certainly gaining the momentum needed to put together a great tournament.”

Unlike the other the three teams in the tournament, the Minutewomen have already had the experience of being in must-win situations, something that Sowry feels will help. The Spiders, on the other hand, dropped their last game of the season to A-10 foe Temple.

Despite being the favorite to win the conference this year, UMass will be the No. 4 seed and the Spiders will be the No. 1 seed.

Sowry believes the seeding to be insignificant, but does not mind seeing her team as the underdogs.

“We probably play better when we are under pressure. When we are the hunted team, we perhaps don’t perform as well,” she said. “Being the hunters, it’s probably a better position for us.”

In the last matchup with the Spiders, the Minutewomen allowed six penalty corners while only earning two. UMass was also unable to attack the Richmond zone, amassing only one shot on goal for the contest.

For different results this time around, Sowry knows that she will have to change things up.

“How we press against them and our intercepting skills are going to be crucial for the final outcome of the game. We will try to come up with a few more balls for counter-attacks. We probably will change our lineup a little bit to give them a different look.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Minutewomen will have a challenge in trying to contain the Spiders’ best two players, Katelin Peterson and Sarah Blythe-Wood.

Blythe-Wood and Peterson are one and two in most of Richmond’s offensive categories, including goals and points.

“[Peterson] has size and good reach which can give you trouble. [Blythe-Wood] is very talented and very skillful, so we’ll have to keep an eye out for her,” Sowry said.

With all of the struggles UMass has faced this season, the Minutewomen somehow found a way to get back in the A-10 Tournament. Being on the brink of having their season come to an end, Sowry feels as if her team is playing with house money.

“We have nothing to lose at this point,” she said.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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