UMass field hockey to take on regional rival UConn
The 7th-ranked Massachusetts field hockey team will be taking on one of its toughest opponents so far on Wednesday when the team travels to 3rd-ranked Connecticut.
The Huskies (5-0) come into the matchup with one of the strongest defenses in the nation, allowing just one goal per game through their first five games.
Meanwhile, after scoring 3.6 goals per game through their first five games of the season, the Minutewomen (6-1) saw an offensive slow-down last weekend, scoring just one goal against both Syracuse and Ohio State.
UMass coach Carla Tagliente said that although the team played well this weekend, the lack of scoring was due to poor decision making, and in the future the team will work on making better decisions on the offensive end to create more scoring opportunities against UConn.
The team, however, will likely be trying to get those scoring opportunities without one of its strongest offensive players: freshman midfielder Izzie Delario. Through the first five games, Delario was tied for second on the team in goals (2) and in shots taken (13).
Delario has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, and she is not expected to return for Wednesday’s game. The time of her return has not yet been decided.
The Minutewomen defense has continued to put up consistently strong numbers, giving up only one goal per game, shutting out their opponents in three games and giving up no more than two goals so far this season.
The Huskies come in with one of the strongest offenses in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, but have scored fewer goals per game (3.2) than three of the teams that UMass has already faced (Boston College, Syracuse and Maine).
UConn does bring some strong players to the game, such as junior Chloe Hunnable, who is currently eighth in the NCAA in goals per game (1.2), and senior Marie Elena Bolles, who Tagliente said would provide a challenge for the UMass defense.
“I think Marie Elena Bolles is always a challenging player for us to figure out in terms of what she does with the ball and what she creates on attack for them,” she said.
Tagliente said that the Huskies play a fast game, and the Minutewomen defense will have to control their opponents if they want to win.
“The more we concede space to them, the more they’ll take,” she said. “They’re a very fast team. We just need to kind of control their space, control their speed and get pressure on the ball immediately.”
The Minutwomen have faced off against UConn a total of 48 times in program history, with the Huskies holding a 32-13-3 advantage in the series, including a 2-0 win over UMass in Amherst last year.
UMass sophomore midfielder Brooke Sabia said the rivalry between the two teams could cause the match to be emotionally charged, but in a good way.
“I definitely think it’ll make everyone a little more excited when we play, which is sometimes hard to contain our excitement, but I think it’s going to be a good matchup,” she said. “It’ll be good for everyone to just boost our confidence.”
Tagliente agreed that the rivalry between the Minutewomen and UConn is a healthy one, and added that the strength of the two teams, combined with their shared history, makes for a marquee matchup.
“I think the country will be watching to see what the outcome of this game is,” she said.
The game is set to start at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88.