PHILADELPHIA – The Massachusetts field hockey team clinched the first seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament by extending its winning streak to nine games with wins over West Chester and La Salle during the weekend.
UMass (13-6, 7-0 A-10) finished its conference schedule undefeated with a 2-1 win over the Explorers on Sunday. With a nine-game winning streak, the Minutewomen passed Ohio State and Maryland for the longest streak in the country.
“I felt like we played some pretty good hockey and certainly had a lot of opportunities,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said.
The Minutewomen played on field turf, which made the ball harder to control because of how much it bounced around. Sowry said the field conditions might’ve hindered her team in having even better success against La Salle.
But the conditions didn’t deny the Maroon and White a perfect A-10 record. Junior Thando Zono scored the first goal of the game, 16 minutes, three seconds into the half on a shot in the right corner to give UMass the lead.
The Explorers came right back with a goal of its own at the end of the first half from Gabrielle Nolt to tie the game at one apiece.
Explorer goalkeeper Emma Ruth worked the Maroon and White offense in hopes of giving her team a chance to pull off the upset and, for the most part, her efforts paid off, as she picked up 11 saves in the loss.
“She did a really good job,” UM senior Katie Kelly said. “She was able to get her hands on the ball early, but that just made each save easier for us. We really need to capitalize on these good goalies by scoring early.”
However, she couldn’t handle the swarm of Minutewomen, who invaded La Salle’s side of the field as they tallied their second goal of the game.
“We shuffled the lineup halfway through that second half and we looked very strong,” Sowry said.
With a little over 19 minutes to play, Kelly caught the ball off a deflection from Ruth, who already batted the ball away multiple times, to give her team the game-winner.
One of the indicators of UMass’ success came on penalty corners, as it held a 17-6 advantage on them throughout the day.
On Friday, the Minutewomen delivered an all-around attack to defeat the Golden Lions, 3-0. Alesha Widdall finished the game with four saves on the day behind a solid UMass defense.
The Minutewomen out-shot the Golden Lions, 12-5. Although WCU had four of those shots on goal, goalkeeper Widdall’s solid effort allowed her to tally her sixth shutout of the season.
On the offensive end, the Maroon and White stayed efficient by converting 25 percent of those attempts 12 into goals.
Sophomore Kim Young scored her first goal of the season eight minutes, 33 seconds into the game unassisted. UMass held onto the advantage in the second half when Zono converted on an assist from Kelly on the penalty corner. It was Zono’s fifth goal of the season.
Penalty corners were a key component in allowing the Minutewomen to attack the net as often as they did, by holding an 8-3 advantage over the Golden Lions.
The last penalty corner that WCU held during the game turned out to be the last score for Sowry and Co. Freshman Lindsay Bowman scored at 54:40, as Kelly recorded her second assist of the game.
UMass had little trouble coasting throughout the remainder of the contest.
The A-10 tournament starts in Philadelphia on Nov. 5. The winner in both semifinal games will advance to play the next day with an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament on the line.
Adam Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.