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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Zono’s comeback fuels second half surge

Michael Wood/Collegian

Senior midfielder Makaela Potts said it herself. The Massachusetts field hockey team is a second half team.

Frustrated, yet never panicking in either deficit they faced this weekend, the Minutewomen (9-6, 3-0 Atlantic 10) grabbed two victories away from conference opponents Lock Haven and Richmond.

Coincidentally, junior defender Thando Zono returned to action on Friday after missing five games in the span of just under a month. She suffered a head injury on Sept. 19 at Maryland.

Her presence was immediately felt as she scored both goals against Richmond in the latest comeback victory for UMass on Sunday in overtime. After falling behind the Spiders, 1-0, early in the second half, Zono responded with her first career goal just three and a half minutes later. The game remained in a 1-1 tie for the rest of the half.

With 9:36 elapsed in the extra period, Potts set Zono up for a shot on the left side of the circle, which she struck for a 2-1 win. It completed the fourth comeback win of the season for the Minutewomen, and second in as many games.

In a battle for first place in the A-10 standings, UMass hosted Lock Haven, the newest member of the conference, on Friday. Having never played the Bald Eagles, the Minutewomen came out trying to get a feel for their opponent.

Lock Haven took advantage and scored the game’s first goal five minutes before halftime off of a penalty corner. The play left Potts frustrated as she slammed her stick to the ground in disgust. Senior Jaime Bourazeris and freshman Hannah Prince walked together back to midfield, both clearly flustered by the lack of defensive execution.

“I was just really upset with the play,” Potts said. “We practice defensive corners all the time, and I think we weren’t strong enough and didn’t have the structure that we needed.”

However, halftime came. An animated UMass coach, Justine Sowry, told her players that they’ve played teams like Lock Haven before and that they knew how to play against them. All the Minutewomen needed to do was to remain focused and play their game.

“The first half was a little chaotic for us,” Sowry said. “Even though we knew what to expect, I think we definitely started to get frustrated at each other. Immediately when we went back out after halftime, we started to play how we should play: support the play [from behind], [create] 2-vs-1’s, get into the circle, and having more purpose once we got in there.”

UMass had seven-straight penalty corners in the second half, dominating play on Lock Haven’s side of the field. Sophomore Nicole Cordero had her second goal of the season in the 42nd minute and Potts followed with her fifth score 11 minutes later. When the clock ran out, UMass had 2-1 victory and sole possession of first place in the A-10 standings.

Zono’s first game action came with 18 minutes remaining in the Lock Haven game as the Minutewomen were setting up an offensive penalty corner. One of her biggest contributions will be at penalty corners, as UMass will try to take advantage of the South African’s 5 feet 7 inch build. Both of Zono’s goals on Sunday came off of penalty corners.

Sowry knew before this season that Zono’s unique skills would bring something to the team that it hasn’t had in quite some time. The Minutewomen might just be starting to see it pay dividends.

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

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