No. 18 UMass wraps regular-season at home against Temple, Lock Haven

By Peter Cappiello

Collegian File Photo

The No. 18 Massachusetts field hockey team is primed to compete on Garber Field for the final two times during the regular-season.

Riding a wave of momentum after totaling five consecutive wins since topping former No. 1 Syracuse, including matches against Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth, UMass (10-8) is set to battle with Atlantic 10 conference rivals, Temple and Lock Haven, this weekend.

Since the 2-1 squeezing of the Orange at Garber Field, which marked the first time the Minutewomen have defeated a No. 1 team, the squad has outscored its opposition 20-5 from Oct. 11 to Oct. 21.

UMass coach Carla Tagliente sees late in the regular season as an opportune time for her team to heat up.

“We’re playing the best hockey we’ve been playing all season, streak or no streak,” Tagliente said. “That’s what you want your team to be doing – peaking as you go later into the season. Game after game we’re building on and adjusting things so the main positive for us is that we’re still improving each game.”

Senior scoring leader, Nicole Cordero, attributes the five-game feat to a boost in confidence from defeating Syracuse, seeing it as a major turning point for UMass.

“We all knew before the Syracuse game that we were a good team,” Cordero said. “After every loss, everybody was saying, ‘we’re playing even with these teams, and the outcome was just in their favor,’ but we realized at one point, it’s like, how long can you keep saying that? Beating (the Orange) was a huge confidence booster and we were finally able to see that we can play with and win against top teams in the country.”

Cordero, who was named A-10 Athlete of the Week this week, and the rest of the Minutewomen will be in for significant opposition this weekend. UMass takes on the Owls (11-7) Friday at 3 p.m. and the Lady Eagles (11-7) Sunday at 1 p.m.

Citing scrappiness and physicality as keys in the upcoming matchup, Tagliente sees the next two games as though ones.

“Temple’s a bit of a physical team – very scrappy, play with their hearts – we need to match and exceed that,” Tagliente said. “Lock Haven is similar in many ways, but we’re focusing on us and fine tuning our play as we go forward.”

The Owls come to Amherst after having their own five-game streak snapped by No. 16 Richmond. Powering Temple’s attack is sophomore forward Amber Youtz with 50 points on the year, including 20 goals. Following her are Nicole Kroener, Lauren Hunt and Katie Briglia, who have 22, 21 and 20 points, respectively.

Lock Haven is fresh off a win, edging Saint Louis, 3-0, last time out, which halted a two-game skid that started against the Owls. The Lady Eagles are led in scoring by junior defender Kelly Harsh with 19 points, while sophomore forward Nakira Downes slightly trails her with 18 points.

UMass comes at its opposition with an offensive touch as two scorers have exceeded the 20-point plateau.

Cordero and former points leader, senior midfielder Kim Young, have combined for 46 points so far this year.

Senior defender Thando Zono is another crucial part of the attack as she is currently in the top three in points production with 18, including seven goals.

Cordero said despite recent successes, the team needs to continue to focus on its core goals.

“We make goals before the game, and they have been to get in goal-scoring positions and take the simple shot,” Cordero said. “That’s been a huge focus for us and now it’s paying off.”

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