The Massachusetts field hockey team is on top. At least for one day.
After getting downed 1-0 on a late goal in the 67th minute against No. 17 Richmond in Virginia on Saturday afternoon, UMass bounced back to stun the best team in the country, beating No. 1 Syracuse, 2-1, on Thursday afternoon in the first match of a three-game homestand at Garber Field.
It was the first time the Minutewomen have ever beaten a No. 1 team.
Senior defender Thando Zono provided the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute of play after freshman Allie Sabia chipped up a bouncing ball to the streaking Zono, who entered the circle on the right side before unleashing a diving blast to the opposite side of the cage, celebrating from the ground when she heard the distinct sound of a goal.
“When I went to the circle, I saw that other side of the cage – I’m like ‘I’m hitting it,’” Zono said. “My head was down, but when I heard it hit, it was just like Christmas.”
UMass coach Carla Tagliente said her team did everything they could be asked to do.
“It feels awesome,” Tagliente said. “Regardless of if it’s Syracuse or any No. 1 team, the one in front of their name is just a number. The bigger thing we needed to focus on today was UMass and focusing on what we needed to do to beat them.”
The Minutewomen (6-8) outshot the Orange (12-1) nine to six in the first half, but Syracuse took the first lead after freshman midfielder Alyssa Manley opened up the scoring in the 23rd minute, notching her second of the year on a rebound to take a 1-0 advantage.
Falling behind early created a sense of frustration rather than worry for Tagliente, which ignited a fire in Zono and the rest of the team.
“It definitely wasn’t worry. I would classify it as frustrated,” Tagliente said. “We had a flurry of shots in front of their goal mouth that didn’t go in, but we just needed to stop looking for the prettiest shot and take what was given to us.”
That would be the only time the Orange were ahead on the scoreboard. UMass freshman midfielder Noralie Weusthuis knotted the game up in the 56th minute on a deflection from low in the circle after sophomore Lauren Allymohamed maintained poise with the ball, moving it up field before putting a hard shot on the ground towards the cage.
“I saw (Allymohamed) with the ball and some empty space in the circle, so I ran in and tipped it,” Weusthuis said. “It was awesome, I’ve never scored a goal like that. It was huge, I feel like we deserved the good outcome for how we played.”
UMass also impressed in the cage with a standout performance by freshman goalkeeper Sam Carlino, who outdueled Leann Stiver, the country’s leader in goals against average and saves percentage heading into the game.
“I’m ecstatic,” Carlino said. “(Leann) played a great game, I do believe that we won – we are such a great team and I believe in our team. But I’m in awe, it’s amazing. The team played so well, we played as a unit today and, I mean, we just beat the No. 1 team in the country.”
St. Louis, VCU next on the menu
The Minutewomen don’t get much time to enjoy their victory as Saint Louis travels to Amherst on Friday afternoon for a 1 p.m. game.
The Billikens carry a 1-12 record entering the contest against Tagliente’s group.
SLU, led by Tori Lycett’s nine points, are 0-9 in program history against the Minutewomen and secured its only win of the season on Sept. 23.
The weekend wraps on Sunday against VCU when the Rams play UMass for the first time since they topped the Minutewomen on Oct. 28, 2001, and the second time in series history. Powered by Kelsey Scherrer’s 30 points, VCU will search for its first A-10 victory after falling to Temple, 2-1, on Oct. 5.
Peter Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.