DURHAM, N.H. — The Massachusetts field hockey team invaded Memorial Field on Friday afternoon for its 2012 season-opener against No. 18 New Hampshire and finished the day with exactly what it was looking for — its first win of the year.
More importantly, the UMass squad made a statement by filling the field hockey world in on the fact that they are serious competitors.
The Minutewomen approached the game with some physicality as they applied heavy pressure throughout the game while maintaining their own composure. They were rewarded for their efforts at the 12 minute, 59 second mark of the first half when last year’s scoring leader, senior midfielder Kim Young, found the back of the cage on the side’s first penalty corner, coming from freshman Allie Sabia and fellow senior, Kate Heineman.
Despite playing a dominant first half and outshooting their opponents, 8-3, a momentary glitch in the UMass defense led to the tying goal with less than seven minutes before halftime when Wildcats junior forward Hannah Richard swept the ball into the cage from the middle of the circle.
Described as a brief loss of discipline in transition by coach Carla Tagliente, the Minutewomen regained their form and battled throughout a scoreless second half.
UMass dodged a bullet late in the second half of play as midfielder Emma Erler fed junior back Megan Bozek, who slotted it into the back of the cage. However, the celebrations by UNH proved to be premature as the referee ruled the goal illegal since the shot was too high.
The game was then sent to overtime, setting up the sudden-death heroics. With her family in attendance, defender Hannah Prince found herself alone on the left wing side where she scored an unassisted goal to seal the victory for UMass, completing the upset of her sister’s alma mater.
“I’m usually not in the circle,” Prince admitted. “I’m usually more of a defensive player, but I received the ball, beat out a defender, saw just me and the goalie, [then] I slipped the ball through her legs.
“It was an unreal moment — it’s my first goal of college, ever, so it was crazy.”
Reflecting on her teammates and speculating about the rest of the season, the level of dedication shown among the group was immense.
“This is what we’ve been working for all preseason and even since the season ended last year — this has been our focus,” Prince said.
“We knew we had this game [on] the 24th [and] the date’s been set in my head since last year. We have a mentality that we’re going to compete every second.”
Aside from dedication, a unity on and off the field is clearly present.
“We did a cool exercise with one of the UMass alums [where] the whole team broke a board and it changed our mindset,” Prince said. “The board isn’t just a piece of wood, it’s the game [and] it’s every moment.
“We like to think we’re unbreakable [and] we’re going to work hard—it’s not about being undefeated or not letting goals in — it’s about picking our heads up so if something does happen, we keep it in our heart [and] in our mind, that we’re Invictus.”
Although she was enjoying her team’s victory, Tagliente remained focused on the upcoming schedule, including a date with No. 15 Ohio State, who the Minutewomen take on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field.
“For us, it’s just about taking it one game at a time,” Tagliente said. “We have a lot of [returning players] who have worked really hard over the course of last season, throughout the offseason and preseason and they’re ready to show that this is their time and this is their year.
“We’re not naïve to know that it’s a long season and this is just one game of 20 regular season games,” Tagliente added. “I want them to enjoy the moment because I think it’s critical to enjoy the successes, but then game faces will be on when we [prepare] for Ohio State.”
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.