UMass earns tournament bid after losing in play-in gameDespite losing to Stanford, 2-1, on Tuesday afternoon in the NCAA Tournament play-in game at Garber Field, the Massachusetts field hockey team was chosen by the selection committee to play Maryland in the first round.
The Terrapins (19-1) are the No. 1 seed overall and will play the Minutewomen this Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Against the Cardinals, sophomore Kelsey Lloyd scored off a penalty corner with 26 minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the game to break a 1-1 tie to propel Stanford past UMass in what was a highly-contested battle.
Players were diving constantly, trying to keep plays alive and to prevent shots from reaching their destination. The UMass goal, which came three minutes before the half, was achieved with the help of a full-out stretch by freshman Molly MacDonnell to keep the ball in the circle. The ball made its way to the center of the circle, in front of the net, where sophomore Kim Young was able to tip it in to knot the score at one. Freshman Lindsay Bowman got the assist.
“I had said to [the players] at the beginning of this game that this could be the last game of their careers on this field for this season,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “We definitely saw their energy, the desperation and the commitment to be there for each other and to try to get the ball back on their sticks. I was really happy, unfortunately we were unable to put another one in the goal.”
Stanford used an abundance of overhead passes, utilizing sophomore defender Becky Dru, to keep UMass on its heels as the Cardinals seized command of the first half, despite being tied with the Minutewomen in shots and goals scored at halftime.
“The first half Stanford really took control of the game and surprised us a little bit,” Sowry said. “But I’m really pleased with the way our team came out in the second half and the attack that we generated. It really shows the determination and character of this team to fight until the very end.”
UMass played with desperation for the final 35 minutes, especially after Lloyd’s score. However, the consistent pressure never broke the Stanford defense and the best chance for the Minutewomen to even the match came with under four minutes to play.
Senior captain Katie Kelly broke away from a defender and raced to the circle with Bowman following her. After a give-and-go pass, Kelly could not quite get a full stick on Bowman’s pass at the goal. Kelly kept possession and tried to restart the play but the Cardinals eventually smacked the ball out of the circle.
As each second ticked off the clock, the Stanford bench was up and jumping with every sequence of events. The UMass bench sat nervously, sharing a blanket and hoping for another opportunity to tie the game. It never came.
When the clock expired, senior Makaela Potts dropped to her knees, knowing this could have been her last game in a Minutewomen uniform.
The loss was made tougher with one of the UMass players missing from the forward line. Sophomore Nicole Cordero was left to watch her teammates on television after being struck in the neck by a penalty corner shot on Oct. 29 at West Chester. She is currently in Pennsylvania recovering.
Fans held up signs with her number clearly visible and numerous players could be seen with a “23” marked on their leg or hand.
“We’ve pretty much dedicated the rest of the season to [Cordero],” Sowry said. “She’s a fabulous team member and it’s really hard for her not being with the team right now. In terms of what she does on the field, it’s undeniable with her work ethic and her heart and courage. Cordero, we’re thinking of her everyday.”
The freshmen, as they have done all season, stepped in to fill Cordero’s spot admirably. Sowry knows how worthwhile it was having her three seniors around to mentor the 10 new players.
“We had 10 freshmen coming and we had three seniors who really led by example and have worked hard to get this team back on track,” Sowry said. “I’m just really pleased with the maturity of our team, especially with how young it is, on many levels. It’s just been an incredible season.”
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.