The Massachusetts field hockey team will try to break a three-game losing streak when it travels to Storrs, Conn. to take on No. 4 Connecticut Wednesday night.
UMass currently stands at 2-6 overall while UConn is at 7-1. The Minutewomen are struggling of late, with three consecutive losses to ranked teams, the most recent of which came against No. 17 Boston University last Friday, when they lost 3-0. UConn is coming off a 4-0 win against Big East opponent Providence last Saturday.
The Maroon and White played in heavy rain at Garber Field against the Terriers. In the first half, UMass played well and in the 17th minute, junior Kim Young fired a shot that just ringed off the goalpost keeping the game scoreless. The Terriers took the lead just before halftime when they scored on a broken corner play with three minutes, 52 seconds remaining.
In the second half, the Minutewomen were outplayed by their counterparts.
The team was outshot, 11-5, and its usually-dependable goaltender, Alesha Widdall, gave up two more goals. Widdall finished with eight saves for UMass while Jess Maroney rejected six attempts against the Terriers.
UConn. the victor in its first six games, didn’t get its first tally in the loss column until a week ago against No. 6 Boston College. Since then, the Huskies have played one game, a 4-0 victory over Providence on Saturday.
The Huskies came out firing against the Friars last weekend to move their Big East record to 2-0. Freshman Chloe Hunnable led the Huskies to victory, scoring three goals in the contest. Maria Elena Bolles helped out as well, recording three assists and a shot on goal. UConn goalie Sarah Mansfield turned away four shots in the shutout effort.
The UMass defense will be tested against the high-scoring Huskies offense that has amassed 27 goals already this season. The scoring is spread around evenly amongst the Terriers’ front line, with four players who have scored at least four goals. Hunnable, despite starting just one game, leads the team with seven goals, followed by Ali Blankmeyer and Jestine Angelini each with five.
“It’s the second and third shots that are hurting us right now,” said UMass coach Carla Tagliente. “Most of the goals we’re giving up are on second and third shot opportunities so it’ll be important for people to make sure they are marking their person and boxing out on defense.”
UConn is solid defensively, allowing just seven goals in eight games and Mansfield has already recorded four shutouts between the pipes. Also, the Huskies have doubled the amount of shots that they’ve allowed to their opponents including a 59-36 edge in penalty corners.
The Minutewomen have scored 11 goals this season, with four players at the two-goal mark. Widdall could be the difference-maker for UMass as she has a 2.72 goals-against average and the Huskies are averaging over three goals in each game.
“We’ll look at film and figure out what we need to do but we’re not going to reinvent the wheel right now,” said Tagliente. “We have some basic fundamental skill work to work on but we’ll fix those things.”
Last season the two teams met on Sept. 11, resulting in a 1-0 victory for the Minutewomen. The Huskies were ranked No. 4 in the country in that game as well, when then-freshman Lindsay Bowman led UMass to the upset with a goal in the 20th minute. It was the first of Bowman’s career and helped the Maroon and White pick up their first victory over UConn since 2000. Widdall finished that game with six saves including the most crucial one with 33 seconds left in regulation.
The Huskies are 5-1 at home this season while the Minutewomen are 1-1 on the road. The game is the first of a four-game road trip for UMass, which will finish up its non-conference schedule with No. 5 Syracuse this weekend. The game is set for a 7:00 p.m. start under the lights.
Michael Counos can be reached at email@example.com.