The 19th-ranked Massachusetts field hockey team will get a little déjà vu when it takes on Temple in the Atlantic 10 semifinals Friday at Garber Field.
The two teams also met in last year’s semifinal in Philadelphia when the third-seeded Owls ended the second-seeded Minutewomen’s season with a 4-0 triumph.
However, UMass (12-8, 6-1 A-10) won the most recent meeting between the two teams on Oct. 26 at Garber Field by a 4-1 final.
The Minutewomen recorded the first goal of the game after senior scoring-leader, midfielder Kim Young, notched a goal after a scoreless half in the 39th minute of play.
Freshman midfielders Courtney Spleen and A-10 Rookie of the Week Noralie Weusthuis were the other Minutewomen to score goals in the win.
While the ultimate goal is to win the entire tournament, which includes Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m. also at Garber Field, UMass coach Carla Tagliente has her team focused solely on taking care of business against the Owls.
“We’re pretty confident in playing them,” Tagliente said. “We’re taking it a game at a time. I think we’ve proven ourselves, we’re an outstanding team, but we need to focus on Temple first and then we’ll focus on who we play next.”
UMass is currently riding a seven-game winning-streak after a 4-0 win over Lock Haven in the regular season finale on Sunday, something that has Tagliente feeling good about her team’s chances in the tournament.
“I think we’re a very good offensive team,” Tagliente said. “Our goals per game is so much higher than last year and we’ve proven we can score goals, but we’ve just been outstanding on defense as well and kept it clean the past few games. The defense has been outstanding and they really start everything up front, but to be able to score goals and finish our opportunities, that’s something you can’t really quantify.”
The Owls come to Amherst with a win in their pocket, having beaten Saint Joseph’s 4-1 on Sunday. Temple’s attack has been powered by sophomore forward Amber Youtz with 52 points on the year, including 21 goals. Following Youtz is Nicole Kroener with 25 points, while Lauren Hunt and Katie Briglia have totaled 23 points each.
The Minutewomen’s strongest tools in the match will be Young’s offensive touch, along with the prowess of senior forward Nicole Cordero and senior defender Thando Zono, who have recorded 25 and 18 points, respectively.
Cordero and Zono’s play have earned them a spot in the 2012 Division I Senior Game, held on Nov. 17 at Old Dominion, after being selected to participate by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.
Following suit is Weusthuis, who posted 14 points this season, including three goals in the span of two games when UMass outscored its opposition 8-1.
Weusthuis, who is the only freshman in the top five in scoring for the Minutewomen, credited the seniors for their leadership and influence on her play along with the success of the team.
“They’re really good leaders on the field and they make the team (unified),” Weusthuis said. “Everyone is included, even the new freshman.”
With emotions and expectations running high before the semifinals, senior defender Elizabeth Karns believes the practice the team has put in all season will pay off in the end.
“We’ve been working in practice on getting in goal scoring positions, getting every ball on cage and feeding balls in so people can have a tip or just get (creative) with the ball,” Karns said. “(Temple is) always a very good team, they play well against us and they always give us a run, so we’re looking at it one game at a time, but we’re definitely ready.”
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.