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November 15, 2017

Defense bails out UMass field hockey

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team escaped Friday’s game with Sacred Heart with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from senior forward Sarah Hawkshaw and a lights-out defensive showing.

The Minutewomen (3-2) managed only one goal despite taking 17 shots, 13 of them on goal. Despite generating eight penalty corners, the team was unable to convert a single one. The Pioneers combined to finish with 12 saves.

“As a percentage, one out of [17] shots isn’t what we want at all,” Hawkshaw said. “We definitely had trouble converting. We were struggling a lot with our basics today. So, we’re struggling with everything else, we’re struggling in the circle as well. We’re getting the shots off, but it’s pointless shooting the ball straight at the goalie. We needed to hit the corners and we didn’t.”

Hawkshaw’s goal came in the 31st minute on a pass across the goalmouth from midfielder Rachel Burchell. Hawkshaw credited Burchell’s awareness for the score.

“It was a pass from Rachel Burchell to me,” Hawkshaw said. “She actually did a very good job of seeing me with the goalie straight in front of her, and instead of trying to hit it into her she beat the goalie and passed it. Fairly simple goal. We were due one.”

Despite the win, coach Barb Weinberg indicated that the offense had room to improve.

“We need to continue to get those shots on goal and then work on our rebounding and having tippers in the scoring positions so we’re able to go around their goalkeeper,” Weinberg said. “Both their goalkeepers that played today had fabulous games and made a lot of saves for them… A lot of times when you’re playing against quality goalkeepers the first shot’s not going to go in the goal, so you have to be all over the rebounds to put it away.”

Although the offense was unable to come away with more goals, UMass kept possession of the ball for much of the second half, which kept Sacred Heart from responding.

“We were having trouble in the first half keeping possession,” Weinberg said. “We had a lot of unforced errors, turned the ball over a lot. So, coming out of halftime, we were really trying to work on our buildup and being able to keep possession from our backfield to our front field.”

On the other side, the Minutewomen held the Pioneers to just three shots, only one of those on goal, and no penalty corners. Goalkeeper Emily Hazard finished with one save.

Unlike the struggles with basics on the offensive side of the ball, defender Shauna Rankin-Byrne cited executing fundamentals for the strong defensive outing.

“Defensively today, it was just marking in front, making sure to intercept every ball that we can, and if they get it, just get behind them and play good defense. Tackle outside the circle so they don’t get easy corners, and just keep them outside so they can’t get easy shots…I think we kept them out of our circle really well, they didn’t get a lot of offensive circle penalties, and that’s huge for us. If they’re not in the circle they can’t shoot.”

The last opportunity for Sacred Heart came in the 57th minute, when Sacred Heart had the ball in the circle but sailed the shot wide of the goal. At the end of the game, as the Pioneers tried to even the score, the UMass defense held firm and kept control of the ball.

“When it was late in the game and the score was still 1-0, our backfield players stepped up really well to make the intercepts and keep the ball out of our defensive end,” Weinberg said. “Mel [Jamie Melley] and Shauna stepped up huge for us in the backfield.”

“We can’t be happy really with that performance,” Hawkshaw said. “We just didn’t bring the performance that we expected. We’ll bring it on Sunday.”

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

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