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UMass field hockey searches for first win away from home with games against Davidson and UMass Lowell

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team will enter Friday’s game against Davidson with a 4-2 record, but that record comes with a twist: UMass is undefeated at home and winless on the road.

“I think homefield advantage makes a difference to every team,” senior midfielder Sarah Hawkshaw said, “But having so many of our fans here and our parents and supporters, they always make it exciting for us. As well as that, we love playing on this field and we’re used to it.”

That drastic split in home-away records can partially be explained by the road games on the schedule up to this point. Both games for the Minutewomen took place in California, and were marked by high temperatures.

The heat forced UMass coach Barb Weinberg to go to the bench early and often, leading to more exposure of inexperienced players.

“In California, it was extremely hot, so we had to roll a lot of subs, so having the talent on the bench stepping in to create opportunities has been very helpful for us,” Weinberg said. “It was a great opportunity for a lot of players on our team to get some experience, which is only going to propel us into our future games.”

Both Minutewomen losses came in close games against good opponents. On Sept. 1, UMass fell 2-1 to California, then lost 3-1 to No. 13 Stanford two days later.

Senior forward Nicole Kuerzi dismissed the notion that the team was dependent on homefield advantage.

“We definitely love being home, and I think it only made a difference, because when we were in California, both those games were really hard to compete against anyway,” Kuerzi said. “We really wanted to beat Stanford, we tried our best, it was a really good game and I think it was maybe just the six-hour flight that made the difference. Otherwise I think we’ll be okay on the road.”

This weekend the Minutewomen will have one home game, and one away for the first time this season. On Friday UMass travels to North Carolina to face the winless Wildcats (0-4). It’s the first game for the Minutewomen against an Atlantic-10 conference opponent.

“I think this weekend is going to be completely different because A-10 starts on Friday against Davidson, and they’re always difficult games no matter who they are,” Hawkshaw said. “They mean a little bit more because they’re conference play. We’re not going to be playing at home, so that’s another thing against us. We’re going to be flying to Davidson, and we all just have to have the right mindset that we have to hustle as much as we do here to come away with the win.”

Kuerzi also noted that although UMass hopes for a strong showing in conference games, their first focus is to win Friday.

“We’re definitely emphasizing it [the Davidson game], because we need to win. Our goal this season is to win every single A-10 game, be undefeated in the A-10, and definitely go to the A-10 tournament seeded first, so I think it’s just an extra motivation. But we are treating it as a regular game.”

UMass returns home on Sunday to face UMass Lowell (4-2) in the second game. The extra travel could be problematic given the Minutewomen’s struggles on the road, but the team feels prepared for the challenge.

“Flying does take a little bit out of you, and early mornings, but we’ll do our best when we’re there to get the rest that we need,” Hawkshaw said. “I don’t think it’ll affect us that much. It shouldn’t. Don’t think we can have that excuse to use against us.”

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

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