Minutewomen offensive side gains a boost

By Michael Wood

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

It’s no secret that the offensive attack of the Massachusetts field hockey team has struggled this season.

Entering Saturday’s home matchup against Saint Louis, the Minutewomen (5-7, 1-0 Atlantic 10) ranked seventh out of eight teams in the A-10 conference in goals scored with 12. They had yet to score more than three goals in any game, and took an average of 11 shots per game, good for fifth place in the A-10. The biggest hole in the Minutewomen attack, however, was a failure to maintain a sense of desperation and intensity throughout the entirety of the game.

On Saturday night, everything changed.

The offense finally exploded and dominated play all game long with 28 shots and four goals on the way to a convincing 4-0 victory. But the story of the night wasn’t from any individual player, but rather the team as a whole. The win marked the first time in over a decade that UMass won a game while holding its opponent to exactly zero shots.

“When you look at our season last year we looked too far ahead and didn’t take the opponent on the day seriously,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “[This year] no matter what opponent we’re playing, we take that game very seriously as if it’s the last game of the season we’re going to be playing. We came out serious and I thought we controlled the tempo and at the same time we were able to get good minutes.”

The Minutewomen kept the ball on the Billiken half of the field for nearly all of the game, only taking it back into their own zone to clear or pass to teammates on the defensive line. Even after SLU stepped up its pressure in the second half of play, UMass goalkeeper Alesha Widdall didn’t have much to do in net, as the Minutewomen remained on the attack.

Sowry had nothing but praise for the Billiken squad and specifically pointed out that they are a tough team who disrupts their opponent’s flow regardless of their winless record.

“They do that,” Sowry said. “They’re a hard-fighting team and they’re never going to give up and I expect nothing less from them.”

Katie Kelly, Makaela Potts and Alexa Sikalis each contributed goals for UMass. Sikalis dribbled past a defender for the first goal of her career just one minute and thirty seconds into the game, while Kelly followed later with a hard shot from the top of the scoring circle. Potts added the last two goals of the night off two penalty corners.

“I think today’s game went pretty well,” Kelly said. “It was our first game of A-10s and I think we came out pretty strong. It’s nice to go into A-10s with a little bit of confidence and now we just have to make sure we bring it every day because the games are only going to get harder.”

The game may have seemed like déjà vu for those in attendance, as last season the Minutewomen played a similar game against the Billikens with a 10-1 victory and dominating on offense throughout the contest.

“Our focus throughout the whole season was A-10s,” Potts said. “It was a big focus to come out strong for our first game. This wasn’t the best we could’ve done, but it’s definitely great to get a win coming into A-10s.”

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]