UMass looks to repeat success despite daunting schedule

By Tyler Fiedler

Junior Brooke Sabia runs with the ball against Richmond during last year's A-10 championship (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Junior Brooke Sabia runs with the ball against Richmond during last year’s A-10 championship (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team had a goal last year: win the Atlantic 10 and make the NCAA tournament. After posting a 19-5 season record and a perfect 7-0 conference record and making it to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals last season, the goal entering 2014 is simple.

Do it again.

“We have to start where we are now,” UMass coach Carla Tagliente said. “We have to focus on us and get better every day.”

UMass won its second straight conference title last season under Tagliente. Now, the test becomes making it three in a row while advancing further into the postseason.

“Our overarching goal is to win another A-10 title while competing for the ultimate prize in the NCAA tournament,” Tagliente said. “We need to get players up to speed and take it day by day.” Last season, the Minutewomen lost to powerhouse Duke in the quarterfinals It was a heartbreaking loss for a team that came up short of its ultimate goal.

This year’s team is full of veterans and youngsters looking to make an impact. The combination of the youth and leadership should make for another successful year for the Minutewomen.

It will be a daunting task, however. If last year is any indication. UMass’ first four games of the season are against teams that finished in the top 30 in the country last season. Tagliente said she isn’t concerned about the strength of schedule. She’s more concerned about how prepared her team is for each game.

“We do not focus on our opponents, the focus is on us,” Tagliente said. “It does not matter who we play.”

It’s the Minutewomen’s toughest stretch of the season. In its first game UMass will take on Maryland –last year’s top-ranked team for most of the season –followed weeks later by a matchup with defending national champion Connecticut. At the end of the season, they get a tough test with national power Syracuse.

“You can only control so many things,” Tagliente said. “Having a tough schedule is what we expect and we are going to go out and play just like it is any other game.”

Luckily for UMass, the games against UConn and Syracuse are in Amherst at Garber Field, where it went 10-2 a year ago.

But the notion of continued success is rising around the Minutewomen. They want more than just another A-10 title. This team wants to win the NCAA tournament and the confidence Tagliente has instilled in them gives them and their fans reasons to believe that something special might be happening in Amherst.

“There are always expectations around this team,” Tagliente said. “We just need to find what systems fit best and get to where we need to be.”

Tyler Fiedler can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.