La Salle the next in line of must-win games for UMass field hockey

By Philip Sanzo

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

With two out of its last three remaining games coming in conference play, the Massachusetts field hockey team has no other choice but to win out if it plans on playing in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The first of these two matchups begins Friday when La Salle (7-7, 3-3 A-10) comes to Amherst.

The Minutewomen (7-8, 3-3 A-10) come off a set of weekend matches against Virginia Commonwealth and Boston College in which they played arguably their best field hockey all season, despite going 1-1.

“I’m hoping to keep the momentum going, I think we had two good games even though BC was a loss,” UMass coach Carla Tagliente said.

Even with a 3-2 loss to the Eagles, the Minutewomen managed to score eight goals between the two games, six of which came in a 6-0 shutout over the Rams. The eight combined tallies are more than UMass has scored in seven games between Sept. 18 and Oct. 11.

“I thought we has some solid offensive play and that s the big thing, just continuing that and keeping their momentum going,” Tagliente said.

Nicole Miller contributed two of those goals and is now tied with Sarah Hawkshaw and Melanie Kreusch for most on the team with six. Miller has been one of the more reliable shooters as of late and boasts a .333 shooting percentage, which is the highest of the three leading scorers.

La Salle enters the match against UMass on a three-game winning streak. During this streak the Explorers have scored eight total goals.

Kendall Kreider, sophomore forward, has been on a tear for La Salle scoring three goal in the Explorers’ last three games.

There is not one player on La Salle’s roster though that the Minutewomen should be especially wary of. The scoring is spread out between about eight players who are all capable of making a play and scoring. In order to defend, the Minutewomen will need to do a similar job to what they did against BC and put up a strong defensive line in front of goalie Sam Carlino.

“I think they have some talented players, I think they have some decent midfield players but overall I think they are just a team that plays hard,” Tagliente said.

If the Minutewomen play La Salle like they did against the Eagles, then they should not have a problem controlling the game on offense. A problem UMass has faced though, that Tagliente has mentioned before, is the team’s issue of playing down to their opponents’ level.

But the Minutewomen showed no sign of that last Friday against VCU.

The atmosphere of must-win games has the Minutewomen playing much more in sync then they have all season. While noting that UMass needs to win its remaining conference games, Tagliente believes there is still a lot to be decided in the conference.

“We have a good chance, we still need things to happen in the rest of the conference,” Tagliente said, “Still early to say because so many teams have three to four games left to play.”

Gladchuck Field has proven be a nice home for the Minutewomen in 2015, who have posted a 4-3 record in games on their new home turf. This field advantage may play an even bigger role against La Salle, who has had its struggles away from DeVincent Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Explorers have posted a 2-5 record on the road and have been outscored 20-to-9 by their hosting opponents.

“Definitely that is an advantage for us,” Tagliente said. “For any team playing at home in any sport you are just more familiar with your facility, your surface.”

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