This weekend will pose an early-season test for the Massachusetts field hockey team as it begins a string of games against ranked opponents, facing off against Northeastern and Maryland at home.
The Minutewomen will square off against Northeastern on Friday. The No. 18 Huskies enter the matchup on a three-game losing streak against UMass, who have dominated them since 2008.
The more anticipated matchup of the weekend will come on Sunday when the Minutewomen will face No. 3 Maryland.
The defending champion Terrapins edged out UMass in a back-and-forth affair resulting in a 4-2 victory in the NCAA Tournament last season.
After falling into a hole, UMass showed signs of brilliance. The slow start, however, hampered the Minutewomen as they were unable to come back and overtake the talented Maryland squad.
UMass (2-3) will likely have a different gameplan this time around.
The Minutewomen will look to attack from different angles by getting more players involved on the offensive side of the ball, including recent Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week, midfielder Renee Suter.
Although she has just one goal so far this season, Suter has received praise for her fundamentals, field vision and possession skills.
Last year’s offense under former UMass coach Justine Sowry weighed heavily on the talents of seniors Katie Kelly and Makaela Potts, who were relied upon game after game to create opportunities on offense and put the ball in the net.
Newcomer Carla Tagliente is a more offensive-minded coach, which is a complete change of mindset for returning players who were accustomed to Sowry’s defensive-minded approach.
Maryland has won four of the last six NCAA championships, including last year’s 3-1 defeat over Ohio State.
After UMass played the Terrapins tough on their home turf in the first round of last year’s tournament, former All-American Carla Tagliente is ready to lead her new team against her alma mater, with whom she was also a volunteer assistant coach.
UMass will look for revenge on the Terrapins, this time on their home turf, with a new coach and a more balanced offensive attack.
Matt Strong can be reached at [email protected]