The Massachusetts’s field hockey team is in high spirits after a weekend that included two decisive in-conference victories over Atlantic 10 opponents.
The Minutewomen came out firing on all cylinders last Friday as they bombarded the net en route to a 7-0 shutout of St. Joe’s. UMass then traveled to St. Louis on Saturday where it was able to capitalize three times on penalty corners for a 3-1 victory.
The Minutewomen will try and strike while the iron is hot this weekend when they square off against La Salle on Friday and Temple on Sunday. The Explorers (6-8, 1-1 A-10), currently sit in fourth place in the conference standings while the Owls (3-0 A-10, 6-10) are tied with UMass for the conference lead.
La Salle and Temple are coming off a match against each other last Sunday, when Temple won, 2-1.
UMass will be bringing pressure to the net against one of the best young players in the conference, La Salle’s freshman goalie Lisa Shaffer. Shaffer has played outstanding so far this season, recording 120 saves and two shutouts in 14 games, while maintaining a goals-against average of 1.76. On Monday, Shaffer was awarded A-10 field hockey Rookie of the Week for the second straight week and the third time this season.
Shaffer posted a 0.98 goals-against average last weekend against conference opponents Temple and Lock Haven. The Minutewomen hope to overcome Shaffer’s skill in the cage with the recent cohesion they’ve found over their past four games.
Much of the recent success for the Minutewomen can be attributed to implementing the offensive and defensive ideals that first year coach Carla Taglienete has been preaching all season. Tagliente has brought a more offensive-minded approach to UMass, while teaching the defense, in their new three-back set, to push up when the ball is on offense and keep the pressure on the opponent.
In their last two victories, the Minutewomen have combined for 39 shots on goal, a far superior number to what the offense has registered in earlier games this season.
The 7-0 victory over St. Joe’s on Oct. 14 saw six different players contribute goals, two of them coming from defensive players Callie Sweigart and Christine Cutry. The seven-goal performance marked UMass’ highest goal total at Garber Field since 1998.
On Oct. 16 against St. Louis, the Minutewomen showed their improvement on penalty corners, scoring all three goals from the set play.
As always, the two-time All-American senior goalkeeper Alesha Widdall will look to anchor down the defense this weekend.
Widdall has been stellar of late, allowing just two goals in the past four contests. In those four games, the goalkeeper has registered 21 saves and faced 47 shots. Widdall has done a great job communicating and developing a young UMass defense with a brand new scheme.
The Minutewomen will face off against LaSalle at 3 p.m. on Garber Field on Friday. A win will keep UMass undefeated in conference play and would mark their 11th-straight victory at home against conference opponents dating back to 2009.
Matt Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org