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UMass field hockey begins final regular season stretch with games against VCU, Providence

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team is preparing for games against Virginia Commonwealth and Providence this weekend, after suffering a blowout 8-0 loss against No. 1 Connecticut on Sunday.

Friday’s game against VCU (8-3, 2-1 Atlantic 10) looms large, as the Rams are right behind UMass (8-4, 3-1 A-10) in the conference standings.

“VCU’s a tough opponent this year,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “They’re under new leadership. I know their head coach is a very good coach, very well organized, so I think we’re going to see a better structural side from VCU.”

This will be the fifth conference game of the season for the Minutewomen, who won the A-10 championship last year. Entering play on Friday, UMass sits in the No. 3 spot in the A-10.

“Every Atlantic 10 game, we know that we have to win and we have to take care of business,” Weinberg said. “We’re just looking at the rest of our A-10 season as one game at a time.”

The Rams had won six straight before last weekend, but dropped both games in last weekend’s set, including a 2-1 overtime loss against Appalachian State Oct. 1.

“Number one, it should be a fun game,” said Emily Hazard, the starting goalkeeper.  “They’re a good team.”

After VCU on Friday, the Minutewomen go on the road to play Providence on Sunday. Sunday’s game begins a three-game road trip, marking the final regular season games away from familiar territory this season for UMass.

“No doubt, going on the road adds another level of adversity,” Weinberg said. “But this team is really good at rolling with it and being able to acclimate to their conditions wherever they’re playing. Surely, it’s easier to be at home in your own routine, sleeping in your own bed, but I’ve got no doubt that they’re prepared to take away games.”

So far this season, however, the Minutewomen have struggled on the road. Although undefeated at home, UMass is only 2-4 in away games.

Like Weinberg, Hazard acknowledged the difficulties that road games have posed.

“Road games are always hard,” she said. “Especially when you play crowds that add another level of difficulty, crowds that are really engaged – like at Cal or Saint Francis – that really want us to lose as much too. We love playing at home, we love our turf. We struggle a little bit adjusting to other teams’ turfs, but hopefully that’s going to get a little bit better in the coming weeks.”

Last Friday, the Minutewomen beat A-10 rival La Salle before their shutout loss to the Huskies Sunday. Before falling to UConn, UMass had gone seven games without allowing more than one goal to the opposition.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country – I mean, they are the best team in the country,” Hazard said. “So, with any team like that, you have to limit shots, and when we give up [nineteen] shots, they’re bound to capitalize on a couple of them. Unfortunately, they capitalized on a few more than a couple.”

Despite the loss, Weinberg emphasized the positives from the weekend.

“We played really good hockey at times against La Salle, we had periods of really good play in the first half versus UConn,” Weinberg said. “We need to tighten up on our defensive end and continue to score field goals. We’ve been successful at scoring on our attack penalty corners. We need to score more goals from the field.”

The Minutewomen’s game against VCU will be at 1 p.m. at Gladchuk Sports Complex in Amherst.

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

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