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March 23, 2017

UMass field hockey falls short despite great defensive effort

Anne Dijkstra (8) dribbles the ball at the game against UConn on Friday.

(Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian)

A strong defensive effort was not enough, as the Massachusetts field hockey team fell 2-1 against No. 4 Connecticut.

Goalkeeper Emily Hazard finished with five saves as she and the rest of the UMass (2-3) defense kept the Minutewomen in the game.

UConn (4-0) upped the pressure and controlled the ball the majority of the second half, with UMass facing six Huskie penalty corners and allowing just one goal, while Hazard managed to save four of the 10 shots she faced in the half alone.

“I thought our defense from top to bottom was stellar,” Minutewomen coach Amy Robertson said. “We just gave up too many (penalty corners), we got out of position a couple of times and (UConn) has a lot of speed, so if they can get into the circle, they have great stick control and earned some corners off of us today.”

“I think our penalty corner defense is very good,” she added. “We stopped a bunch of those but would like to get a few of those back.”

In the 63rd minute the Huskies broke the 1-1 tie with a penalty stroke goal from defender Casey Umstead that would ultimately be the game winner.

“Our defense was incredibly solid,” Hazard said. “It’s frustrating on the calls but sometimes you can’t control what you can’t control.”

Offense was a problem for the Minutewomen throughout the day, as the front seven did not find a groove against a tough Huskie defense. UMass mustered only seven shots the entire game, and just two in the second half. UConn doubled the Minutewomen’s shot total with 14, 10 of which came in the second half.

“I think the first half we had a lot more offense,” Robertson said. “In the second half we got to the attacking third and missed that one more connection to get in the circle and to get a better result in the circle.”

The Minutewomen got the scoring going in the 15th minute when senior forward Nicole Miller dribbled past a defender and ripped a ball into the circle and fellow forward Grace Horgan was there to deflect it in past the goalkeeper. That goal put UMass up 1-0, a lead they would take into the second half.

However, the Minutewomen were unable to slow down a ferocious UConn attack in the second frame.

Huskie defender Anna Middendorf received a pass from forward Amanda Collins and defender Olivia Bolles to tie the game for UConn at the 47:47 mark in the second half off their lone penalty corner goal of the game.

Robertson said she was pleased with the team’s effort today and said there is plenty of room to improve for UMass.

“I think that we can play at a much higher level than we did last week,” Robertson said. “We want to keep playing at a higher level and UConn gave us a big opportunity to test ourselves and see how we can play against the #4 team in the country.”

The Minutewomen will return to action Friday, September 16th at the Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex in Amherst against Saint Louis. The game is scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m.

Tyler Fiedler can be reached by email and followed on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.

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