Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Down but not out, UMass views VCU as the start of ‘must win’ games

By Philip Sanzo

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

After an offensive meltdown and a series of upset losses to Atlantic 10 opponents this past weekend, the Massachusetts field hockey team finds itself in a situation where every conference game here on out is a “must win.”

Those were the words that head coach Carla Tagliente used to classify the remaining three conference games for UMass (6-7, 2-3 A-10). The Minutewomen haven’t scored a goal since Oct. 2 in a 3-2 win at Saint Louis and have been shutout by their last three opponents in losses against Louisville, Lock Haven and Saint Francis.

With a home game against Virginia Commonwealth on the horizon for UMass, it cannot afford to drop any conference as it currently sits fifth in the standings. Only the top four teams in the A-10 are invited to the conference tournament at the end of each season.

With only five total games remaining, three of which are against conference opponents, Tagliente is confident that there is plenty of time for UMass to make a push.

“There is a lot of shuffling (in the conference) that’s probably going to happen,” Tagliente said. “The focus is on to win out and I think we have a good shot.”

Tagliente added that she would be surprised if the Minutewomen won their remaining three games and weren’t in position to make it to the conference tournament.

The three conference opponents that UMass is up against are against Virginia Commonwealth, La Salle and Davidson. VCU (4-8, 2-3 A10) is currently tied with the Minutewomen for fifth in the conference making Friday’s matchup a critical game for both teams.

The Rams, who are 1-3 on the road and have scored 13 goals in the second half of games this season, pose a threat to possibly the Minutwomen’s greatest weakness – their second half defense. They have allowed 18 goals in the second half of games while only totaling nine of their own.

“We are working on building to our midfield and adding more numbers to our attack,” Tagliente said.

It all comes down to taking advantage of their opportunities in the circle though.

On top of the conference matchup against VCU this weekend, the Minutewomen will have another shot against a nationally ranked opponent when No. 17/12 Boston College visits UMass on Sunday.

The Eagles (7-6, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) are battling their own problems as they have yet to win a game in the tough ACC conference.. Tagliente has stressed in the past how important it is to win nationally ranked games, but has this one on BC placed on the back burner.

“The A-10 game has taken a much higher priority right now,” Tagliente said.

UMass, who was once nationally ranked in the top 20 this season has found little success against ranked teams in 2015 currently sitting at 1-3 with its lone win coming against Boston University on Aug. 30.

With such high stake games ahead, it is important that the Minutewomen understand the gravity of the situation heading into the most crucial part of the season.

UMass has experienced nothing but success in conference play in recent years and it is very easy for teams with those expectations to lose sight of how urgent these late season games are.

Though time is limited in the Minutewomen’s season, it still exists and Tagliente believes there is plenty of it for things to change drastically.

“We still have three games left, some teams still have five games left,” Tagliente said.

Davidson, who is currently second in the A-10 with a  4-1 conference record is the only team in the top four that UMass has yet to play. The two square off in the last game of the regular season on Oct. 31.

“We could finish two, we could finish three, we could finish four, we could finish out of it,” Tagliente said.

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

About the Writer
Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor

Class of 2018, Phil served as the sports editor and the senior producer for the Daily Collegian. Having worked with the Collegian since his freshman year,...

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