UMass field hockey off to a stronger start than in 2014

By Matthew Zackman

Sophmore Cliodhna Loughlin weaves the ball through two defenders during Sundays 2-1 loss to Northeastern. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Sophmore Cliodhna Loughlin weaves the ball through two defenders during Sundays 2-1 loss to Northeastern. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Although the Massachusetts field hockey team only has a .500 record to show for its start to the season, the bumpy beginning has been seen as more of a positive than a negative by the Minutewomen.

UMass (2-2) began the season with a 4-3 loss in an overtime thriller against New Hampshire but quickly turned around with a pair of wins against in-state rivals No. 20 Boston University and Northeastern. The Minutewomen then fell to No. 4 Syracuse 4-0,  one of the toughest national teams, to even their record.

Even though UMass coach Carla Tagliente believes her team has not played at its top level, she said she’s pleased that the Minutewomen have managed to stay competitive in each game.

“I was talking to my assistants and we agreed that it says a lot when we can win a couple of games while we are not playing the prettiest field hockey,” Tagliente said.

She added: “Overall the energy and the mood is positive. It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster, which it always is. While the first loss was definitely disappointing, we bounced back and took home two quality wins.”

While UMass has no plans to settle for a .500 record, the progress the group has accomplished this season has been done much quicker than the development seen last season, in which the Minutewomen started 2-7 before finishing the regular season on an 8-2 run.

“The team is feeding off the improvement and I think that game-by-game the team is getting better and improving,” Tagliente said.

Tagliente said she is pleased with the team’s smooth start and believes it has added energy to the team’s mood.

“Last year we really started off of our back foot. Last year we had to dig ourselves out of a hole,” Tagliente said. “It’s definitely a different mood and vibe this year. You get that from the Boston University game. We probably would have lost that game last year, but this year our team understands more how to finish games and win.”

There are several areas where Tagliente sees a need for further progress, however, including overall defense.

“Our defense really had some holes in our first game and we’re working to improve them,” Tagliente said.

“We really need to focus on consistency and finishing games off. We’ve scored quite easily in a few of our games but we are not generating enough opportunity. It’s important that we get our attack on pace and we should be able to score five or six goals a game.”

Tagliente acknowledged that the Minutewomen lost several veteran players last season but doesn’t mind that her roster is composed of younger athletes. UMass has eight true freshmen and seven sophomores on its roster.

“We are young, but the majority of that young group has a year of experience under their belt and understand what it takes to win,” Tagliente said.

Looking forward, the Minutewomen will begin a five-game homestand that will run through the entirety of September and will pair them against UMass-Lowell, Dartmouth, Saint Joseph’s, Richmond and Stanford.

 Matthew Zackman can be reached at [email protected]