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May 8, 2017

UMass falls to eventual A-10 Champion Richmond

fhockAThe Massachusetts field hockey team witnessed its season come to a sudden end as Richmond beat the Minutewomen, 2-1, in overtime of the Atlantic 10 Conference semifinals at Garber Field on Friday afternoon.

“We left it all out there,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “I think we were prepared. We were playing well as a team. We certainly had our opportunities. Unfortunately we didn’t come through right at the end.”

With each team playing with only six players in sudden-death overtime, Richmond senior Sarah Blythe-Wood, the leading goal scorer in the A-10, beat three UMass defenders and scored on a breakaway 11 minutes, 19 seconds into overtime to send the Spiders into the championship game.

This came minutes after the Minutewomen appeared to have won the game. Senior forward Cher King appeared to deflect the ball into the Spiders’ goal off a penalty corner. However, the referees ruled that the ball had never hit her stick and nullified the goal.

UMass goalkeeper Alesha Widdall helped keep the Minutewomen in the game by making eight saves, including multiple one-on-one stands against Blythe-Wood in the final minutes of the second half and overtime. Blythe-Wood however, won the final meeting between the two to seal the victory for Richmond.

“She was outstanding,” Sowry said of Widdall. “I know she’s very disappointed in that final goal but she made some outstanding saves and I’m really proud of the way she played today.”

King, shaking off an injury that has plagued her throughout the season, had a major impact in the last game of her collegiate career. She scored the only UMass goal at the seven minute, 33 second mark in the first half, off of an assist from freshman Kim Young, to give UMass an initial 1-0 lead, a lead the Minutewomen took into halftime.

“She’s phenomenal,” Sowry said. “She has such great heart and character. I saw her X-ray yesterday and her kneecap is actually in two pieces. So for her to be playing on that knee the latter half of the season is just inspiring. She’s been a great member of this program.”

The game featured a rematch of last year’s A-10 Championship game as UMass was defending its conference title over Richmond. It had the intensity of a championship game. The competitiveness of each team permeated throughout the match with several players getting carded. Three green cards were handed out as well as a yellow card. Multiple players took shots off of their bodies and had to leave the game temporarily to deal with injuries.

The UMass-Richmond contest was the most competitive game in the tournament as the other two games were each decided by three goals. Richmond went on to beat Temple in the conference championship game, 3-0, on Saturday.

The Minutewomen will dwell on this game for some time but Sowry believes that this loss can help the team as they return next year hungry for another championship.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Sowry said. “We have to learn some lessons from this so we can come back next year and be a better, stronger unit, and bring back the title.”

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

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