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February 11, 2016

Minutewomen look to clinch Atlantic 10 title

Geoff King/Collegian

In a weekend where it faced off against two Atlantic 10 conference opponents, the undefeated Massachusetts’s field hockey moved to the top of the conference standings.

After beating La Salle in a decisive 2-0 shutout at home last Friday, the Minutewomen (7-9 overall, 5-0 A-10) traveled to Philadelphia and defeated then-undefeated Temple in a 2-1 overtime decision. After defeating the Owls, UMass moved into sole possession of first place in the A-10.

In a hard-fought battle for both teams, the Minutewomen were ultimately able to pull away, with the highlight coming from senior Nikki Panciocco, who scored 6:53 into overtime to secure the win.

It was a come-from-behind win, away from their home turf, making it clear that UMass was not ready to relinquish its title of reigning A-10 Champions. Had the Owls won, they would be primed to finish the season atop the standings. Now, at the very least, the Minutewomen have secured a share of the regular season conference title.

On Friday at 1 p.m., UMass will take on the Richmond as part of Senior Day in its last A-10 conference game of the season and their second-to-last regular season game. With a win, the Minutewomen can clinch their fourth conference title in the past five years. A conference victory would also mark the second-straight season in which the Minutewomen went undefeated in their conference schedule.

At 3-1, the Spiders currently sit third in the conference behind Temple. Unlike most of the other conference teams, Richmond had much success during their non-conference schedule in which it went 11-6. The Spiders are the only team in the A-10 to be above .500 in out-of-conference play.

Richmond’s most potent weapon is senior Katelin Peterson, and the Minutewomen must keep a close defensive eye on her throughout the contest.

Peterson, whose 42 career goals ranks her fourth all-time on Richmond’s goal list, was named last week’s Atlantic 10 Player of the Week after scoring three goals and adding one assist during the Spiders’ wins over conference foe Saint Joseph’s and non-conference opponent Radford.

Peterson’s freshman teammate Rebecca Barry has also been hot of late, earning Co-Rookie of the Week honors following her two goals in the Spiders 6-3 defeat over Saint Joseph’s. Barry, an Ireland native, is in the top-10 in the conference in points, with seven in four conference games.

The young defensive back line of the Minutewomen will have their hands full with the talented, dynamic duo of Peterson and Barry. They will have to rely on the “push-up” on defense and “bombard the net” on offense mentality if they want to beat the Spiders and clinch the A-10 title.

The Minutewomen will round out their regular season on Sunday when they travel to Providence to take on the Friars at 2 p.m.

Matt Strong can be reached at mstrong@student.umass.edu

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