UMass, Lock Haven to play for the first time

By Michael Wood

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Massachusetts and Lock Haven have never met in competition before, but on Friday, Oct. 15, the top two field hockey teams in the Atlantic 10 conference will play each other at Garber Field for a chance at first place.

Each team saw rough starts to their respective seasons, with UMass beginning with a 1-3 record and Lock Haven losing its first three games, but each has rebounded and now sits atop the A-10.

The Minutewomen (7-6, 1-0 A-10) are in second place in the A-10 and head into the game on an offensive tear, scoring 11 goals in their last three games and seeing production from a variety of players.

Through the first half of the season, senior Katie Kelly led the team in offense, accounting for roughly 60 percent of the goals scored. Yet, in the past three weeks the Minutewomen have received scores from seven different players and hasn’t had to depend on Kelly to score every goal. UMass coach Justine Sowry attributes the recent surge in offense to quality practice time and consistency in play, regardless of the opponent.

“It’s a little bit of both,” Sowry said. “In our earlier games we were playing against higher-ranked opponents where one player may only get one chance in a game. Now we’re able to get more players in and give more time and it gives them more opportunity and with that you gain a little bit more confidence.”

The Lady Owls (10-6, 1-0 A-10) are currently in first place in the A-10 owning the best overall record, and tied with three other teams for the best mark in A-10 play.

“I’ve never seen them live, just on video,” Sowry said. “They’re another good Pennsylvania team. They’re very tough, very aggressive and I think they’re opportunists up at the front. They’ll press well and press hard and they definitely go fast in the attacking 50 [yards]. Our press is going to have to be good and our defensive structure is going to have to be very tough and very poised.”

Lock Haven has players in first place in just about every offensive category, and generates the most offensive pressure of any A-10 team. There are two Lady Owls with at least 13 goals on the year, and the leading goal scorer and point leader, Amy Hordendorf, is averaging a goal per game.

Fortunately for the Minutewomen, their defense continues to be the strongest aspect of their game, regardless of the recent rejuvenation to the offense.

Goalkeeper Alesha Widdall ranks first in the A-10 in save percentage (.816), goals against average (1.15) and shutouts (four), and she is currently fifth in total saves with 62. She is one of the most experienced goalies in the conference and the stability and leadership she provides between the pipes figures to be a significant benefit for UMass as the season winds down.

“It’s going be an interesting game,” Sowry said. “We’re expecting rain so it could be an interesting battle in interesting conditions. It’s an equalizer. Depending on how much wind and rain we get, it’s going be a slugfest.” 

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]