UMass field hockey heads into Atlantic 10 tournament with confidence
The Massachusetts field hockey team is once again heading to the Atlantic 10 tournament this weekend in Richmond, Virginia in hopes of defending its crown.
The Minutewomen head into the four-team tournament as the third seed and will play Richmond Friday. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Saint Joseph’s and Saint Francis’ game that proceeds it.
UMass finished the season 11-7 overall and 6-2 in the conference. Richmond, on the other hand, did not have much success in the regular season going 8-10 but 6-2 in the A-10.
Since 2004, no other team in the conference has won the tournament besides the Minutewomen and the Spiders—showing the dominance of the two programs spans more than a decade.
UMass won the tournament last season, while Richmond did so the year prior. The two teams played each other in both of those finals. This time around, only one will be able to stand on the field in the final game.
In the lone meeting between the two teams this season, the Spiders defeated the Minutewomen 4-2. UMass was overmatched by Richmond in that game, being outshot 20-11 with six less penalty corners.
“Last time out we were not playing a structure that made us successful,” UMass coach Amy Robertson said. “We didn’t feel good about that loss but we have made changes since then in how we defend and how we attack.”
After the loss to the Spiders, the Minutewomen finished the season winning four of its last five games. With the tournament around the corner, UMass is in its territory. With eight seniors on the team, this is the most experienced team in the tournament.
“I think we are at a real advantage because we are in an underdog role,” Robertson said. “The experience on our side and guts and belief have us very confident going into the weekend.”
Their defense will need to be better Friday in order for the Minutewomen to give their seniors the sendoff Robertson is hoping for. They gave up an average of 10 goals in the team’s final five games while putting 15 goals in net.
Two of the eight seniors on the team, Izzie Delario and Nicole Miller, have been in this position before and for the Minutewomen to advance, the two of them need to perform at a high level.
“We are at our best when things are on the line,” Robertson said. “We seem to always rise to the occasion and I don’t think this tournament will be any different.”
If it has hopes of advancing to the final tournament game, UMass will have to secure its end of the field defensively.
Richmond has scored only 34 goals this season. UMass has allowed only 35, while scoring 51 on the year. In the last meeting, Richmond scored four times on the Minutewomen.
“We need put them under pressure and deny them opportunities to get in the middle and get through our defenders,” Robertson said. “It is a mentality too, not just skill so we have to come prepared.”
The UMass back line is led by seniors Hannah Farrell and Cliodhna Loughlin and junior Melanie Kreusch. These three upperclassmen have been solid on the back line for the Minutewomen.
“To me it would mean everything because it’s the senior’s last A-10 tournament and they deserve to go out with a win,” Robertson said. “We have more experience than any other team in the tournament and that should play into our favor.”
Tyler Fiedler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.