Top seed not guaranteed for Minutewomen in postseason

By Pete Vasquez

Michael Wood/Collegian

The Massachusetts field hockey team is not coasting with the Atlantic 10 regular season title just yet. Despite guaranteeing themselves a spot in the A-10 tournament next weekend, the Minutewomen still have much to be determined.

UMass is the only undefeated team in the A-10 with a 5-0 mark. But Lock Haven is only one game behind, with a 4-1 conference record. Therefore, in an extreme scenario, the Minutewomen could still forfeit the top seed if they were to lose both games against West Chester and La Salle, while Lock Haven beats both Saint Joseph’s and Temple at home.

The other threat for UMass is Richmond, a team owning a 3-2 conference record, as well as holding last year’s regular season crown. Richmond hosts Temple and SJU this weekend, just like Lock Haven.

The Minutewomen, however hold a distinct advantage after defeating both the Lady Eagles and the Spiders earlier this season. Therefore, even though Lock Haven may have a better non-conference record than UMass, the Minutewomen would still hold a higher seed than the Lady Eagles based on their 2-1 win on Oct. 15.

Situational practices

By this time of year, the Minutewomen have placed much emphasis on the major aspects of the game such as penalty corners, passing, attacking with purpose and defending within the circle. Now, the players are focusing on specific game situations and trying to mimic pivotal game scenarios, which can be the difference in winning or losing a close game.

These scenarios include: being one goal up with less than five minutes remaining and vice versa, being a player up as well as a player down and playing penalty corners after time has expired in the half.

“It’s up to them to take what we’ve been working on in practice and actually put it into a game,” UMass assistant coach Kelly Dostal said. “They have been doing a real nice job of implementing what we’ve been working on. We’re pretty pleased with the team.”

While the Minutewomen are not taking this weekend’s games lightly, they are still using some of their practice time to develop a few strategies that could potentially be used in tournament play.

“Looking past this weekend is definitely something that we’re not doing at all, but knowing that we’ve qualified for the A-10 tournament, we’re definitely preparing to have tricks in our bag for the tournament weekend,” Dostal said.

Underclassmen contributing

Throughout the season, the Minutewomen have relied on seniors Katie Kelly and Makaela Potts to do the bulk of the team’s scoring. The two have combined for 15 goals, exactly half of the team’s total mark.

“We’ve been talking a lot with the [players] about how Potts and Kelly are going to be keys for teams,” Dostal said. “They’re going to target those two players because they do have such an attacking presence, that we need other players to start stepping up. We’ve been encouraging our young players, saying the responsibility is going to fall on [their] shoulders. So [they] have to take that and make something happen with it.”

Recently, the underclassmen have answered the call. Freshman Mika Black scored her first career goal this past Sunday against the Hawks. Sophomore Nicole Cordero, who had the assist on Black’s goal, scored one of the two critical goals against Lock Haven as the Minutewomen edged the Lady Eagles by one score. It was Cordero’s well-timed first goal of the season.

In the last four games, UMass has scored a total of nine goals. Only three of those nine have come courtesy of either Kelly’s or Potts’s stick. With junior Thando Zono back in the mix after a head injury, the Minutewomen have had a much more balanced attack. Zono, who only enrolled at UMass last spring, has netted four of the last nine goals.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at [email protected]