The Massachusetts field hockey team lost its opening NCAA tournament game against No. 1 Maryland, 4-2, on Friday, but if you ask anybody on the team, they’ll tell you it felt like a win.
“We belong here,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “And that’s what people need to understand and what the team needs to understand. We belong here and we played the game of our lives.”
Following an emotional play-in loss to Stanford a week earlier, the Minutewomen learned of their at-large bid the same night and immediately turned their focus to the Terrapins. Having already played the Terps once this season, (which resulted in a 3-0 loss on Sept. 19) the team felt confident going into the game.
Maryland scored two goals in the first seven minutes to grab a 2-0 advantage on scores from Ali McEvoy and Hayley Turner. Both scores came off early penalty corners.
“In typical UMass style, we came out a little slow,” Sowry said. “You can’t give a No. 1 team in the country that kind of time and space.”
The Maroon and White scored once in the first half. Senior Makaela Potts put the team within one goal in the 13th minute with her sixth score of the season and 20th of her career. Potts took a penalty corner pass from Jaime Bourazeris and Nikki Panciocco and sent the ball past Maryland’s goalkeeper. The goal came on the first UMass shot of the day.
UMass trailed, 4-1, at halftime and made its goal to win the second half. The squad rebounded and out-scored the Terps, 1-0, outshooting them, 5-4, in the second half.
Bourazeris scored the second goal for the Minutewomen. She tipped a shot by Potts into the goal off a penalty corner for her fourth of the season and 16th of her career.
Bourazeris, Potts and Katie Kelly created several scoring chances for the Minutewomen in the latter part of the game, but the squad couldn’t capitalize.
Sowry spoke highly of her team after the loss, citing their heart and work ethic as reasons for their success all season long.
“It was a great game,” Sowry said. “To our credit, we came back and we just have an incredible amount of courage and character and heart. We had a couple of opportunities to get even closer to them, but we’ve really become a team that does belong in the NCAA tournament. I’m incredibly proud of them all.”
The trio of seniors represents Sowry’s first recruiting class and will leave UMass as the most successful class in the last decade. Together, they led their teams to three Atlantic 10 championships in four years and three NCAA tournament berths while posting a 58-31 record.
Kelly made the biggest impact on the statistical side of the game in her four seasons. She will leave UMass seventh all-time in goals (36), eighth in assists (21) and sixth in points (93).
“I think we played with everything we had,” Kelly said. “It was a really tough game and disappointing that we lost, but I think we gave it everything we had. We came out and we won the second half, and that was basically our goal at halftime. I’m proud of everyone.”
The Minutewomen finish their season with a record of 15-8 and 9-0 in A-10 play. Their tournament appearance was the 22nd in the program’s history, and the third of Sowry’s career.
Michael Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.