The Massachusetts field hockey team will approach Saturday’s game at Lock Haven looking to reverse a string of misfortune as it competes in its first Atlantic-10 Conference match-up of the season.
After this weekend, the Minutewomen can let out a sigh of relief, as their four game road trip will come to a close. The match-up against Lock Haven (7-7) will mark the third-straight away game for the Minutewomen before they finish their trip in Albany on Sunday.
UMass is 0-2 on the current road trip and victims of a five-game losing streak with losses to then- No. 4 UConn and then-No. 5 Syracuse that put their record at 2-8. The team is working with new coach Carla Tagliente to revamp its offensive approach and match its defensive approach accordingly. Like with anything new, change takes time, and the Minutewomen have showed signs of great things to come, but haven’t been able to pull it together for the full 60 minutes.
UMass will look to rebound from a loss at Syracuse in which they were statistically dominated. The Orange held a 13-2 advantage in penalty corners and a 23-2 advantage in shots taken, including 15 shots to the Minutewomen’s zero in the first half.
Tagliente has preached throughout the season that her team should bombard the net and push up the defensive approach to scoring.
UMass will undoubtedly come out attacking when they face off against Lock Haven on Saturday. They will look to keep pressure on Lady Eagles senior goalkeeper Lindsay Staufenberg or sophomore Kelsey Moll, who have both split time in the net this season.
To have any success, UMass will have to keep senior forward Leslie Ahern in check. Ahern received the most recent Atlantic-10 Field Hockey Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. This marks the third-straight week in which a Lady Eagle has earned the honor. Ahern, known for her good speed, has scored four goals in her past three games and will prove to be a challenge for the young UMass defense. Furthermore, the senior leads Lock Haven in every major statistical category including goals, assists and points with 11, 8, and 30, respectively.
The UMass defense has struggled in their transition from a four-back defense to a three-back defense. With starters riddled with injuries and an abundance of underclassmen on the roster, the starting defense now consists of freshman and England native Lauren Allymohamed and sophomore Hannah Prince as well as redshirt junior Callie Sweigart.
Sweigart has earned a vote of confidence from coach Tagliente who has faith in her tactical skill, knowledge of the system and communication ability with the younger players. As always, the two-time All-American senior Alesha Widdall has anchored the defense for the Minutewomen, providing solid goalkeeping game after game in the net.
Widdall, working in conjunction with Sweigart, is helping to mentor the younger players and get the defense back to where it was under the more defensive-minded former coach, Justine Sowry.
The Minutewomen will round out their road trip against Albany at 2 p.m. on Sunday before they return home on Oct. 14 to face off against St. Josephs at 3 p.m.
Matt Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org