After the Massachusetts field hockey team lost its top three goal scorers to graduation last year, there was much speculation about who would step up for the team on offense.
Three games into this season, the team seems to have found a player who can lead the attack. Sophomore midfielder Brooke Sabia recorded her second straight multi-goal game of the season on Tuesday against UMass Lowell, bringing her season total up to a team-leading four goals.
Coming off of a two-goal performance against Michigan, where she scored both the tying and winning goals, Sabia got the scoring started for the Minutewomen (3-0) against the River Hawks.
In the eighth minute of the first period, after her first shot was saved by UMass Lowell goalie Melanie Hopkins, Sabia got the rebound and chipped a shot over Hopkins’ head and into the net to put UMass on the board.
Twenty-three minutes in, Sabia scored her second goal of the game when she flicked a penalty corner shot past Hopkins to give the Minutewomen a 2-0 lead, with Charlotte Verelst and Alexa Sikalis providing the assists. UMass would go on to defeat the River Hawks by a score of 6-0.
After posting just one goal and four assists in her freshman season, Sabia said she worked hard during the preseason to improve her offensive skills so that she could take on more of a leadership role.
“I feel as if there’s always going to be someone that’s going to be coming in and taking other people’s spots,” Sabia said. “I feel like … it’s my turn and also some of my other teammates’ turns to take in that (leadership) role, and when I leave, when they leave, it’s going to be the underclassmen’s turn as well.”
Coach Carla Tagliente said that Sabia has already started to show leadership qualities on the field through the first three games of the season.
“She’s shown glimpses of real brilliance on the field, and she’s put in more consistent performances,” Tagliente said. “You see her in flurries really produce in the offensive end, and you saw that (against UMass Lowell), and the key is just to get her to consistently do that over the span of the minutes that she plays.”
UM defense with another strong game
While the UMass offense was able to put up six goals against the River Hawks, the defense recorded its first shutout of the season, not surrendering a single shot.
After a 2012 season where the team gave up an average of 1.69 goals per game, making them No. 22 in the nation, the defense continues to look strong this year, averaging one goal allowed per game through their first three contests.
“We’ve started strong as a unit. It’s not just the back three or the back five people, it’s a collective effort of all 11 on the field,” Tagliente said. “I think our pressing’s gotten better with the strikers and midfield and the backs, and it really starts up at the front, but I think collectively, all together, everyone’s individual pressure on the ball has been really great.”
Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be followed on Twitter at @jgms88.