Minutewomen kick off NCAA tournament Saturday against Syracuse

By Matt Levine

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The 10-game winning-streak that earned the Massachusetts field hockey team a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010 started with a win over No. 1 Syracuse University on Oct. 11 at Garber Field.

And now the teams will meet again.

The No. 16 Minutewomen (15-8, 6-1 A-10) will battle the No. 5 Orange (17-2, 6-0 Big East) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday at University Park, Pa.

UMass coach Carla Tagliente said that her team is poised to beat the Orange for a second time this season.

“We are playing our best at this moment and I think we match up well with Syracuse,” she said.

Prior to their first meeting with the Orange, the Minutewomen were inconsistent at best, boasting a 5-8 record. After they dethroned the then No. 1 team in a 2-1 victory, the winning-streak began, earning them the rematch with Syracuse.

Tagliente said that the win against Syracuse gave UMass much-needed confidence to channel the win streak.

“I think it kind of woke us up to open our eyes to see we really are a good team,” she said. “It definitely does give us confidence going in to it knowing that we match up well.”

Tagliente said that she expects this time around to be much tougher with much more at stake for both teams.

“I imagine that they’re going to come in quite focused and quite motivated,” she said. “I don’t imagine they were the most thrilled with how the game went before, but we also have room for improvement on our end so we will be ready for them.”

The two team’s last matchup was a little less than a month ago, but Tagliente said that the film of the game will still be useful.

“We are just going to look at the film again and see areas we need to improve on from our game with them last time,” she said. “We are not going to be changing that much in such a short amount of time, but just seeing where we can makes the biggest advances the quickest.”

Tagliente said that the Orange’s balanced attack makes them unique, as five players have eight or more goals this season. However, she has faith that UMass’ defense can stifle the Syracuse attack.

“I think they are a pretty balanced team, in general,” she said. “Regarding the attack, I think we have been playing great team defense this year and we are just going to continue that and get pressure outside of our defensive circle and make tackles early.”

In the Syracuse win earlier this season, and in most games this season, the Minutewomen have come back from early deficits to win. Tagliente said that this fact is a true testament to the resilience of her team.

“I think they have done a good job of just staying in the moment and just focusing on whatever the moment is giving them and just playing to their potential and not so much being fixated on outcomes,” she said.

The last time UMass played in the tournament was 2010 where the Minutewomen lost  to Maryland, 4-2, in the first round. That team had an identical 15-8 record to this year’s squad and similarly ended the season with an 11-game win-streak.

But since Tagliente was not around for the 2010 run, she believes her team is primed for different results.

“I think this is a different team,” she said. “We have a balanced attack as well, we have a lot of people putting goals on the net, we have a lot of goals this year and also kept our goals against average better than it has ever been.”

Matt Levine can be reached at [email protected]