The Massachusetts field hockey team bested another Top 10 team by shutting out No. 8 Syracuse, 2-0, Sunday afternoon at Garber Field.
“[I’m] thrilled,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “It was a huge game for us. We’ve had all week to prepare for it. They came out firing and to be able to shut out a quality team like that is really impressive. I’m just incredibly proud of this team right now.”
Junior goalkeeper Alesha Widdall earned her third shutout of the season and second in three games. She had a season-high 11 saves in the game, overcoming 23 shots and 11 corners by the Orange. Widdall now has 16 shutouts in her career.
“I’m just so excited and pumped that everything fell together from this week’s practicing,” Widdall said. “Our defense put everything out on the line to keep the ball out of the net.”
The Minutewomen (5-6) knew to expect a big early push by Syracuse (7-4). The question was whether or not they could compose themselves enough to withstand that push. The result was their second shutout against a Top 10 opponent, with the first coming against then-No. 4 Connecticut on Sept. 11.
“We constantly said to them, ‘Win the battle’,” Sowry said. “When we had the ball, we were trying to get in front of their players, because most games they’ll step in front and pick off the ball time and time again. But we stepped in front, we competed, we contested those 50/50 balls, and then in the course of flow of the game we did come up with plays. I think our defensive organization, our communication, we were all there on key as an entire team.”
Sunday’s win was the first against Syracuse in 12 years for the Minutewomen.
“It really proves when you can play against a UConn and a Syracuse that we can play at that level,” Sowry said. “At the same time, we have to keep learning lessons because when we play other teams we don’t come out as strong. We’re not as sharp on the ball or sticking to our game plan. As we go forward into the A-10s, we’ve got to take moments like these and make sure that you play at that intensity and that level no matter who the opponent.”
Senior defender Jaime Bourazeris gave UMass a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute off a tip in. It was her second goal of the season.
Forward Molly MacDonnell, a freshman who had still been looking for her first goal of her UMass career, broke away in the 52nd minute to give the Minutewomen an insurance goal early in the second half.
Sophomore forward Nicole Cordero assisted on both goals for her first two assists of the season.
Syracuse more than doubled the amount of shots taken by UMass, 23-11, but came away with no goals. In recent games, that would normally be an outcome facing the Minutewomen.
Last weekend UMass took 40 shots, outshooting both Vermont and Albany by 25, and only scored twice. On Sunday, the Minutewomen made the most of their 11 shots.
Widdall made a diving stop on an Orange penalty stroke with just over two minutes remaining in the game to keep the shutout intact. The play was a clear example in Sowry’s mind of the intensity that she had been preaching about since the way Albany played last Sunday to preserve a 1-0 victory over UMass.
“Alesha, along with the rest of the defenders, incredible composure and just undeniable,” Sowry said. “They wanted to keep the ball out of the back of the net. It was fabulous. We should take a lot of confidence moving into the Atlantic 10 conference play.”
Pete Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.