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UMass field hockey looks to continue winning streak against St. Francis and Lock Haven

(Tori Green / Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team travels to Pennsylvania this weekend to take on two Atlantic 10 opponents, facing St. Francis on Friday before a game against Lock Haven on Sunday.

After opening up A-10 play last Friday against Davidson, this weekend’s series opens a stretch of four conference matchups over the course of the next five games. The only non-conference game will be when the Minutewomen travel to UConn on Oct. 1. These next five games present a golden opportunity for the Minutewomen to take possession of first place in the A-10.

“It’s going to be the same game prep that we’ve done all season long,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “Obviously with the conference game there’s a little bit more energy and excitement around it, but starting tomorrow at practice we’re going to start to prepare for the St. Francis game on Friday.”

Preparing for the Pennsylvania trip is complicated by the fact that DeGol Field at St. Francis is a turf field. One that differs from what the Minutewomen play on at home at the Gladchuk Sports Complex.

“St. Francis is on a totally different turf, so we’re going to the football field tomorrow,” senior forward Nicole Kuerzi said. “That’s a completely different game.”

Two years ago, the last time the Minutewomen took this trip to Pennsylvania, they were shut out by both Lock Haven and St. Francis. For a team that has struggled to score at times this season, the offense will be under close scrutiny this weekend.

“[It’s] something we’ve continued to work on,” coach Weinberg said of the attacking struggles. “Our connection from our backfield to our strike line has been good all season, now we need to work on our midfield and that connection to be able to build the play.”

For the veterans on the team, remembering the losses two years ago adds extra motivation going into this weekend’s series.

“The next two games are really important,” forward Sarah Hawkshaw said. “Two years ago, we really struggled against these two teams on their fields because they have a different turf than we do, and we want to get back there and take back what we lost two years ago.”

Regardless of the opponent, the two conference games are marked with particular importance for a team that won the Atlantic 10 a season ago and is aiming to repeat. Entering this weekend, the University of Massachusetts is 1-0 in conference play following last Friday’s win over Davidson.

“We treat it like any other game,” Weinberg said. “One of the team’s big goals is to be undefeated in the Atlantic 10 conference, so obviously that is a goal in the back of our minds, but we’re going to prepare just like we would any other game.”

UMass enters the weekend on a four-game winning streak since dropping two games on a road trip in California. In that span the defense has allowed only one goal, backed by goalkeeper Emily Hazard’s 14 saves.

“The last three games, our defense has held it down pretty much for the whole game, both defensive penalty corners and in the field of play,” Weinberg said.

The strong defensive outings have also helped jumpstart the UMass offense.

“[The defensive dominance] helps us a lot so we’re not back there constantly the whole game, we can stay in our positions,” forward Grace Horgan said. “They’re also doing a great job getting the ball all the way up to the forwards.”

After the Lock Haven game on Sunday, the Minutewomen will face two more A-10 teams at home sandwiched around the away game against Connecticut. Until Friday, however, the team is keeping its focus on the St. Francis game.

“Haven’t started scouting Lock Haven just yet,” coach Weinberg said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. St. Francis first, and then we’re on to Lock Haven.”

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

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