March 5, 2015

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UMass gains experience from rivals

With half of its schedule complete and one more game to go before conference matchups begin, the Massachusetts field hockey team will draw from its experience against the nation’s top teams to help drive them past its Atlantic 10 rivals.

The Minutewomen (4-6) have faced stiff competition so far this season. Their schedule included stops at No. 2 Maryland and No. 18 American while also hosting No. 4 Connecticut and just this past weekend, No. 19 Albany.

The lone win for UMass against its foes, and its biggest win of the season, came on Sept. 11 when it earned a hard fought 1-0 win against UConn. It was the Huskies’ first loss and shutout of the season. They were coming into that game having scored seven goals in their previous three games.

However, in the other three games against ranked opponents, UMass has been outscored, 6-0, including a 3-0 defeat at Maryland, its largest defeat of the season.

Looking ahead, the Minutewomen will face a difficult stretch from Oct. 17-24, as they square off against Richmond, Temple and Saint Joseph’s, all teams in the top 50 RPI rankings, as of last week.

Lack of scoring

As of late, the Minutewomen have struggled to put up points. They have been shut-out in three out of their last four games. In seven out its 10 games, UMass has no more than one goal and is 1-6 in those games.

This is not to say that the Minutewomen are shy about getting shots off. They are outshooting their opponents, 119-112, despite being outscored 14-10. That averages out to exactly one goal per game.

The constant rotation of first-year players along the forward line can be one reason attributed with the lack of goal scoring. Freshmen Lindsay Bowman, Mika Black, Alexa Sikalis and Molly MacDonnell have each started at different points throughout the season.

While the freshmen are still working hard to make adjustments, fourth-year forward and captain, Katie Kelly, has scored a team-high six goals. Bowman is the closest to Kelly with two goals. Bowman had goals in back-to-back games on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, including the deciding goal against UConn. In fact, she’s been very efficient, having only taken a total of three shots this season.

One category that UMass holds a distinct advantage over its opponents is penalty corners. Penalty corners are essential in creating goal-scoring opportunities and the Minutewomen have drawn 70 penalty corners, 37 more than their opponents. However, only four goals have come as a result of all those corners.

Second half surge

The Minutewomen seem to play their best hockey in the second half of games. Seven of their 10 goals have come in the second half. They’ve shot 13 more times in the second half than in the first so far this season.

The first sign of this pattern came, fittingly enough, in their first win of the season, Sept. 3 at Northeastern when the Minutewomen fell behind in the 12th minute before mounting a comeback. Senior defender Jaime Bourazeris’s goal in the 55th minute capped a 2-1 victory.

However, the biggest comeback of the season for UMass came on Sept. 12 at Yale, after the Minutewomen fell behind 2-0 by the end of the first half. Kelly drew her team within one at the 54 minute, 51 second mark. Bowman followed with her second goal less than 10 minutes later, and an unassisted Kelly won the game in overtime to give UMass a 3-2 win.

Last year, the Minutewomen had four games in which they scored the winning goal in the second half.

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

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