Nicole Miller’s career day guides UMass field hockey to Sunday win

By Tyler Fiedler

Nicole Miller carries the ball into the Dartmouth defensive zone on Sunday.  Robert Rigo/Collegian)
Nicole Miller carries the ball into the Dartmouth defensive zone on Sunday.
(Robert Rigo/Collegian)

While the sky above the Massachusetts’s field hockey team’s new home at Gladchuk Field remained muggy and cloudy Sunday afternoon, UMass’ Nicole Miller shined bright for the Minutewomen in a 6-1 victory over Dartmouth.

Miller, a junior, notched her first career hat trick in the Minutewomen’s second win of the weekend. She now has four goals through UMass’ first six games.

“I mean I am just glad we won, I don’t really care how many goals I scored,” Miller said. “I’m happy we just won by more than one goal and blew them up, we are constantly trying to hold onto things and we came out strong on offense and defense in the first and second half.”

In the 64th minute Sunday, Miller received a long pass from Melanie Kreusch leading to an open path toward the net. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Miller knocked the ball to the right and put it in the back of the net for her third goal of the game.

“I’m better at 1-on-1s so I had to go in on an angle and move the goalie one way,” Miller said. “If you get (the goalie) stuck, you can just go around them and put it in.”

After a tightly-fought 4-3 win over UMass Lowell Friday, the Minutewomen (4-2) cruised to a blowout victory over the Mean Green (1-3) in its second straight home match. UMass jumped in front early with two goals in the opening two minutes of regulation.

Miller started the scoring with her first goal of the game off an assist from Izzie Delario at 1:20 mark. Delario intercepted a pass and found Miller for an easy first goal.

“(Miller) has done a nice job, I think her consistency is higher than it’s ever been,” UMass coach Carla Tagliente said. “She adds a spark and different dimension to our offense and does a good job to get free. She is definitely one of the critical parts of our attack right now.”

The Minutewomen kept up the pressure just 31 seconds later when freshman Kim Sistermans scored her first career goal off a deflection from teammate Hannah Farrell.

Miller returned to the scoreboard 15 minutes later as UMass was rewarded a penalty corner and yet another redirection got past Mean Green goalie Paige Duffy.

The goal gave the Minutewomen a quick 3-0 lead 16:15 into the first half.

“This game, we cut into the middle and were able to have more attack on offense,” Miller said. “We had more options on offense and were able to take advantage of that.”

Tagliente pointed at consistency on both ends of the field as the major difference in Sunday’s victory. The Minutewomen outshot Dartmouth 15-to-1 in the first half and led in penalty corners 7-to-0.

“I think consistency-wise we did really good,” Tagliente said. “Overall we did a good job regaining control when momentum started to shift out.”

Dartmouth added an early goal in the second half to temporarily stop the bleeding, but UMass finished on another 3-0 run to clinch the victory.

Sarah Hawkshaw added her team-high fourth goal off a penalty corner while Farrell and Miller capped the Minutewomen’s scoring.

Farrell’s goal came in the 55th minute off another penalty corner. The Minutewomen took advantage off penalty corner opportunities with two goals on 12 tries.

After scoring just seven goals through their first four games, UMass showed their offensive prowess by scoring six goals Sunday.

“I think we have been doing a nice job on the attack end,” Tagliente said. “Our concern has been from the defensive end, I think we have talented and skilled players. You saw today the number of players flushing into the attack.”

UMass plays its third straight home game against Saint Joseph’s on Friday at 2 p.m.

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