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Scoring blitz propels UMass field hockey to season-opening win

(Collegian Photo File)

The Massachusetts field hockey team started the 2017 season strong with an 8-3 win over Holy Cross at Gladchuk Sports Complex on Friday, scoring three goals out of the half to pull away from the Crusaders.

UMass (1-0) controlled the ball throughout the game, taking twenty-six shots and facing only seven from Holy Cross (0-1). Twenty of those shots were on goal, and the Minutewomen scored eight goals despite ten saves by Crusaders goalkeeper Marcia LaPlante.  Three of those goals came in the first six minutes of the second half, breaking a 3-3 halftime tie and giving UMass a lead it would never relinquish.

Coach Barb Weinberg, who picked up her first win as the head coach at UMass, praised the team’s mentality and performance in the second half.

“In the first half, the defense struggled a little bit, but they did a great job refocusing in the halftime and playing strong defense in the second half,” said Weinberg. “[We also] eliminated turnovers in the midfield, because that’s where most of their scoring opportunities were coming from.”

Holy Cross struck first with a breakaway goal from senior forward Maureen Connolly in the ninth minute, and the two teams traded goals until halftime. UMass got its first lead less than two minutes into the second half on a penalty corner goal by freshman midfielder Georgie McTear and never looked back.

Weinberg credited McTear and other new players for their role in the win, saying, “new players coming off the bench [did well] … Some of our starters were struggling in the first half and the bench players were able to make plays in some key moments.”

Another of those new players who made an impact early in the game was freshman forward Lucy Cooper, who scored two early goals to keep the game tied at the half. Cooper finished her first collegiate game with two goals on four shots along with three assists.

Despite the first half struggles, the returning players picked up in the second half. Seniors Sarah Hawkshaw and Melanie Kreusch finished with two goals apiece, and goalkeeper Emily Hazard had three saves.

The Minutewomen also came away with seven assists, three of them credited to Cooper, and eight penalty corners, three of which they converted for goals. Primarily, though, it was their ball control that shut down Holy Cross, which only managed three shots after the half.

Following her first game at the helm, Weinberg cited practice and preparation as the driving forces behind the win.

“We made a lot of strides this preseason both attacking and defending. We went into the game with the mentality to trust our preparation, knowing we’d done everything we could to come away with a W.”

The win was an auspicious opening to the new season for the Minutewomen, who finished last season as the A-10 champions but lost to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Minutewomen have a new head coach this year, but return, among others, last year’s top scorer Hawkshaw at midfield and Hazard at goalkeeper. The team will return to action Sunday at Gladchuk Sports Complex against Vermont at 1:00 p.m.

Thomas Haines can be reached at thaines@umass.edu.  

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