No. 18 UMass tops Temple, Lock Haven, extends win streak to 7

By Peter Cappiello

The Massachusetts field hockey team has caught fire.

Since upsetting then-No. 1 Syracuse, 2-1, UMass (12-8, 6-1 Atlantic 10) has amassed seven consecutive wins, including victories over Temple and Lock Haven on Friday and Sunday afternoon to end the regular season. And since Oct. 11, the team has outscored its opposition, 28-6.

During Senior Day at Garber Field, seven Minutewomen seniors closed out their final regular season game on a high note, edging the Lady Eagles (11-9), 4-0, on Sunday evening.

UMass coach Carla Tagliente said the importance and influence of the seniors on her squad has been monumental.

“We have an outstanding group of seven seniors this year, some that play a lot, some that don’t play that much, but to have a special group like that and to get them all on the field today at the same time was awesome,” Tagliente said. “I talked to them after last season going into this year and I put the ball in their hands. “I said this season’s all about them and they can make it what they wanted to,” she added. “That seven, they drive this group and they’ve been outstanding leaders no matter what role they’ve been in. It’s really nice to play like this today and be able to honor them.”

UMass wasted no time in grabbing an early lead as freshman midfielder Noralie Weusthuis, who was named Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Week on Monday, put UMass up 1-0 in the 24th minute after walking low into the circle and floating an unassisted shot past Lock Haven goalkeeper Elaina White.

The Minutewomen would not look back.

The seniors took charge, doubling the lead as scoring leader Kim Young notched her 11th goal of the year on a feed from senior co-captain Callie Sweigart via Kate Heineman at the 20-minute mark in the first half.

Junior midfielder Alexa Sikalis added the third goal of the game nine minutes later after breaking through the Lady Eagles’ defense with a 360-degree spin move before burying an unassisted ball in the bottom left side of the cage.

The final goal of Senior Day ended the same way it started as Weusthuis found the back of the cage.

Weusthuis, who also scored a goal on Friday against Temple, said she is more comfortable playing offensively rather than back in the field.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Weusthuis joked. “I always played back defensively in the Netherlands, but now (Tagliente) puts me more on offense, so I’m in the circle more. At first I was scared when I came into the circle, but now I’m more used to it, I’m calmer.”

Senior defender Elizabeth Karns said the day was especially high in emotion.

“It’s really exciting,” Karns said. “We’ve spent four years and accomplished a lot in that time, but we take every game seriously and ultimately we just wanted to win.”

Young leads UMass past Temple

Young opened up the scoring for the Minutewomen on Friday afternoon against the Owls (12-8) in the 39th minute of play after a scoreless first half.

UMass capitalized on momentum as Weusthuis beat a diving goalkeeper for an unassisted goal in the 43rd minute before Young added her second of the game seven minutes later.

Temple showed signs of life after sophomore Nicole Kroener got on the scoreboard on a goal from senior Katie Briglia in the 69th minute.

But it would not be enough as UMass freshman Courtney Spleen added the final goal of the night to secure the 4-1 victory on an empty-netter after Haley Mitchell, who previously entered the game for Lizzy Millen, was pulled to allow an extra attacker for the Owls.

Qualifying as the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, which is held at Garber Field, the Minutewomen are set to square off in a rematch against Temple in the semifinals of the single-elimination competition this Friday at 2 p.m.

Tagliente expressed confidence in the matchup, citing her team’s focus and leadership.

“These guys are a very focused group and I credit the leadership to that a lot,” Tagliente said. “Temple is a good team, very athletic, very feisty, but we had a great match against them already at home. We know they’ll adjust some things, we’ll adjust some things, so we’ll look forward to a good battle and a good game, but we’ll be ready.”

Karns said she and the Minutewomen are ready to perform at their best this weekend.

“We’re super excited to host this year, it’s going to be great,” Karns said. “We have a lot of teams coming for us and we’re coming right back at them, so we’re excited. We’re ready to go.”

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