UMass field hockey kicks off conference play against Saint Joseph’s and Richmond

By Philip Sanzo

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

After winning two consecutive games against UMass Lowell and Dartmouth, the Massachusetts field hockey team is peaking at the right time in its young season.

The Minutewomen now look to maintain their momentum this weekend when they open Atlantic 10 conference play this weekend with a pair of games against Saint Joseph’s and Richmond.

Coming off a 6-1 victory over the Big Green, UMass (4-2) will host both games at the new Gladchuck Field, where they are currently 2-0 this season.

Last season, UMass excelled in conference games, finishing 7-1 with its lone loss coming against the Spiders on Sept. 26. With the majority of the roster returning from 2014, the Minutewomen hope to see a similar performance this year in the A-10.

The Hawks head into Amherst Friday having lost their last two games. UMass defeated St. Joseph’s 3-2 last season in their only head-to-head matchup.

Although the Minutewomen may seem to be the favorite, Minutewomen coach Carla Tagliente said UMass must not look past Friday’s matchup.

“I wouldn’t look past Saint Joe’s to be honest with you, they are a much better team this year and they are a team that gave us some trouble last year,” Tagliente said.

Monica Tice and Jenny Morris lead the Hawks as players UMass will have to be extra wary about on the field. Both have three goals on the season and expect to provide the most aggressive attack against the Minutewomen defense.

On the other side of the field, Saint Joseph’s goalkeeper Amelia Deibler has struggled this season. The junior goalkeeper has allowed an average of 3.40 goals per game and has only saved about half of the shots sent her way.

The Minutewomen will look to take advantage of this matchup offensively, despite its own inconsistencies on the attack. When the offense is up, the Minutewomen are a tough matchup to defend.

“I haven’t had a team that has been able to put this many goals on the board in such a quick fashion in games,” Tagliente said.

The Minutewomen’s offense has been explosive but streaky; they will get into a stretch where they will put a lot of goals on board in a very short amount of time but then the offense will back off for the rest of the game.

But Tagliente feels the team is slowly beginning to evolve into a true offensive force.
“You’re starting to see them gain confidence right now and believe in themselves and in their potential and talent,” Tagliente said.

All this positive feelings circulating through the team will surely be put to the test Sunday when UMass hosts Richmond, who eliminated the Minutewomen from the final round of the A-10 tournament a year ago.

Although the Spiders have lost their last four games, they are another opponent that Tagliente said UMass cannot take lightly. In the A-10 preseason poll, the coaches ranked Richmond No. 2 behind only the Minutewomen.

The Achilles heel for the Spiders this season has been their offense. No player has scored more than two goals and the team as a whole has not tallied more than two goals in a game all season long.
But above all, the tipping point in this weekend’s matchup might be the Minutewomen’s depth, according to Tagliente. The Minutewomen do not have to rely on only one or two players to step up and score goals, and instead feeds off the contributions of several key players.
Faceoff against Saint Josephs is set for Friday at 2 p.m. Sunday’s matchup against Richmond will begin at noon.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.