UMass looks to snap skid against Vermont

By Peter Cappiello

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian File Photo

After back-to-back overtime home losses to No. 7 Northeastern and No. 12 Boston University, the Massachusetts field hockey team looks to stop its slide and grab its first home win of the season on Friday evening when it takes on Vermont at Garber Field.

Playing five overtime periods in the last three games and battling for more than 70 minutes is nothing new for UMass coach Carla Tagliente’s squad, which has had 75 percent of its games this season end in extra time.

Tagliente stressed the positives to be taken from the team’s recent overtime affairs rather than focusing on the unfavorable outcomes.

“We can focus on the fact that they’re overtime games or focus on the fact that they’re one-goal games,” Tagliente said. “I don’t think anything is inherently wrong or flawed with our team at all, in fact I think these games highlight a lot of positives.          “We recognize the losses and the team takes it to heart, but if we do a litmus test of where we’re at now with our skills and strengths, we’re very talented and equally as skilled as some of the best teams in the country,” she added.

Friday’s contest comes against a Catamounts team that has not won any of its seven games this season, most recently dropping a 4-0 decision against Saint Francis and a 4-1 loss at Lock Haven on Sunday and Saturday, respectively.

Despite winning 11-of-13 matchups in their history with Vermont – having won every meeting since 2007 – Tagliente and the Minutewomen see the Catamounts as a challenge that cannot be underestimated.

“They’re not a team to be taken lightly because they’re extremely hungry to get in the win column, just the same as we are,” Tagliente said. “We’re tired of overtime losses and we’re equally as hungry.”

The most potent offensive threats for Vermont are senior midfielder Alana Izzo – who leads the Catamounts in scoring with six points, including two goals – and junior forward Colleen Slaughter, who follows Izzo with four points and two goals.

UMass prevailed in the teams’ last meeting on Aug. 29, 2011, 4-2, in Burlington, Vt. Callie Sweigart scored a pair in the victory, while Kim Young and Renee Suter each contributed a goal as well.

Despite Vermont’s struggles, Tagliente knows her team will have no room to break concentration against a dangerous team.

“They’re dangerous because there’s no predictability about them,” she said. “It’s hard to plan for what they’re going to do because they don’t keep a set structure, they have a lot of athleticism and they’re scrappy. We’ll focus on where they can hurt us.”

During its past two games, UMass has opened the scoring within the first minute of play. This Saturday, Tagliente is issuing a similar challenge.

“I’m going to challenge these guys to get on the board just as quickly against Vermont, but to not stop there,” Tagliente said. “We need to keep the pressure on and be a team to score five or six goals a game because we’re capable of it.”

The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Peter Cappiello can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.