UMass field hockey is no stranger to postseason success

By Jamie Cushman

 (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team will look to capture its third straight conference title as it enters the Atlantic 10 tournament as the top seed. The Minutewomen (10-9, 7-1 A-10) will begin tournament play against Lock Haven on Friday in Richmond, Virginia in a semifinal match.

The Minutewomen have experienced tournament success in the past and enter the tournament as the top target. But according to coach Carla Tagliente, there isn’t an added pressure of being the tournament’s top seed.

“It’s just a number,” Tagliente said. “It’s nice (to recognize) the team for the work they’ve done all season, but it doesn’t carry much weight at this point. I mean you still have to win two games. If it gave you a goal advantage that would be awesome. But it doesn’t so it’s just for seeding at this point.”

Midfielder Hailey Cockrum agreed and recalled last year’s semifinal, in which UMass escaped Virginia Commonwealth in double-overtime, 1-0.

“We know going into this tournament that just because we’re ranked first doesn’t mean that our first round is going to be easy,” she said.

With two A-10 titles already on her resume, senior midfielder Renee Suter has the leadership to know what it takes to win in the tournament.

“Be confident and stick to the game plan,” she said. “It’s just another game. Obviously there is more on the line, but at the end of the day it’s just another game that we need to come out on top for.”

The Minutewomen faced the Lady Eagles at home back on Oct. 3, a game in which UMass won 3-0. Tagliente believes it will take hard work and determination to beat the Lady Eagles for the second time this season.

“They’re not going to be an easy opponent,” Tagliente said. “They defend with numbers. (In the first matchup) we found it challenging in parts of the game to get some attack generated.”

In the first matchup, Lock Haven’s playing style presented a difficult task for the Minutewomen. The Lady Eagles featured a defensive alignment that used all ten players defensively and attacked with as few as five players.

“Our defensive structure and our organization was a bit clustered at times because we had three or four more players than they had,” Tagliente said. “We just need to simplify it, communicate and play our game.”

The tournament comes at a good time for the Minutewomen, winners of eight of their last ten games.

“We’ve peaked at the right time,” Cockrum said. “We’re going in with a lot of momentum and team comradery. We’re confident not only just with our position of being first, but our play as well.”

Suter is eager to get her final A-10 tournament underway, confident in the team’s ability to secure another title.

“I’m excited to go into the game,” she said. “I feel like we’ve really started to come together as a team. We’ve been playing really well. We’re been scoring goals, not just off corners but in the field which is important for us. Those are really good things to have going in to the A-10 tournament.”

The game between Lock Haven and UMass is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday, following the other semifinal matchup of Richmond vs Saint Francis at 11 a.m. The two semifinals winners will square off for the A-10 title on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]