It’s come down to the last home weekend for the Massachusetts field hockey team with what has been a very promising season thus far.
Temple and Saint Joseph’s will visit Garber Field on Friday and Sunday as they take on the top-seeded team in the Atlantic 10 standings.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position within the Atlantic 10,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “From the games last weekend, I don’t think we necessarily played our best hockey. But we were able to come out with wins. We succeed in how we possess the ball. We’ve got a long way to go but we’ve also set ourselves up quite nicely.”
After two close conference wins last weekend over Lock Haven and Richmond, UMass (9-6, 3-0 A-10) remains the only undefeated team the A-10.
Although Temple (7-9, 2-1 A-10) and Saint Joseph’s (5-10, 2-1 A-10) have sub-500 records, both teams are one win behind the Minutewomen and can potentially equalize the playing field in the conference.
“It’s only halfway through [the A-10s],” Sowry said. “We can’t relax, we have to keep our foot on the accelerator, keep working hard at practice and not take any opponent lightly. Hockey is a strange game [where] you can dominate a game and not win it. We have to make sure that we work hard enough that we will get more opportunities than our opponent.”
Even with a struggling team like the Owls, UMass is well aware of the history it’s had with Temple. The last two years, the matchup between the two teams have needed at least two overtimes to declare a winner.
Last season, the Minutewomen lost 2-1 in double overtime. The year before that, UMass had to win a stroke-off, 3-1, after the score remained tied at one by the end of two overtimes.
“Every time we come up against Temple, they’re a hard-nosed Philadelphia team,” Sowry said. “They work hard and just bring a whole other level when they play against us. I don’t think their record necessarily represents how tough they are. We’re expecting a really tough battle. Temple has always given us trouble. Always.”
Besides the battles that UMass has encountered with Temple, this weekend offers a variety of motivational factors. First, both the Owls and Hawks rudely welcomed the Minutewomen into conference play last season as UMass dropped both games in its opening A-10 weekend, being outscored 5-1.
Secondly, it’s the last time the Minutewomen will get to play in front of their home crowd this year and the team will celebrate Senior Day on Sunday to honor those who will be graduating in May.
Sunday’s Senior Day, however, will have an extra special feel to it. It will mark the culmination of Sowry’s first recruiting class. Seniors Katie Kelly, Makaela Potts and Jamie Bourazeris all came into the program alongside Sowry, who is in her fourth year at UMass.
“It’s kind of bittersweet that it’s coming to an end but they’ve been such a pivotal threesome for this program and getting the program back on track,” Sowry said. “I’m sure it’s going to be an emotional game but at the end of the day, hopefully we can play some good hockey as well.”
Temple comes into Friday having won three of its last four games after eight straight non-conference games. St. Joseph’s, meanwhile, has won two out of three after dropping five consecutive contests.
Now that UMass has positioned itself atop the conference standings, each A-10 team will be looking to knock it off its post. The Minutewomen are prepared for that and hope to make their last home stand of the year a memorable one.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.