Fresh off an upset victory over No. 9 Michigan, the Massachusetts field hockey team dominated in its home opener on Tuesday, defeating in-state rival UMass Lowell, 6-0, and claiming the inaugural Kennedy Cup.
Paced by sophomore Brooke Sabia’s second straight two-goal game, the 14th-ranked Minutewomen (3-0) didn’t take long to open up the scoring.
Sabia scored her first goal of the game seven minutes and 38 seconds into the first half on a rebound over the goalkeeper after her initial shot was saved. Just under 15 minutes later, she tallied her second goal of the game on a penalty corner, set up by Alexa Sikalis and Charlotte Verelst.
Before Tuesday’s game, UMass coach Carla Tagliente reiterated to her team that they should be sure not to take any opponent lightly.
“We talked a lot before the game about just playing our game and focusing on what we needed to work on, so I just think it’s really important for our team to continue to grow and continue to see how deep our team is,” Tagliente said.
UMass dominated the stats, tallying 28 shots, 19 of which came in the second half, while not allowing the River Hawk offense to get off a single shot the entire game. The Minutewomen also held a 12-1 advantage in penalty corners.
With many of the leading scorers from last season graduated, Sabia hopes to gain a leadership role on the offensive side.
“I would like to gain a (leadership) role like that, but at the same time I think there is always going to be incoming players that fill other people’s roles and I feel that this year it is my turn and some of my other teammates’ turn to take these roles,” Sabia said.
Tagliente said that the team got off to a slow start in the first half, and they weren’t happy with the way that they were playing, but she was pleased to see them turn it around in the second half.
“I thought our discipline was better in terms of our structure and what we were doing with the ball,” Tagliente said. “We went directly up the middle for a larger part of the first half and that is very uncharacteristic of us, but I thought our defensive structure was better, which enabled us to get more second chances and rebounds in the circle.”
After starting the season with two one-goal victories over Maine and the Wolverines, UMass registered its first shutout of the season, with sophomore goalie Sam Carlino not having to make one save the entire game.
“We started strong as a unit, with not just the three or five people we have in the back contributing to the defense, but a collective effort of all 11 players on the field,” Tagliente said. “I think our pressing has also gotten better, and everyone’s individual pressure on the ball has been really great.”
Tagliente added that her team will need to come ready to play the entire 70 minutes when it plays Harvard on Friday at 5 p.m. at Garber Field.
“I think we got away with a little bit in Maine, and this game was patchy, so everyone needs to be ready for the game and ready to execute what our game plan is, and we should be fine,” Tagliente said.
Jason Kates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.