Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Lackluster offense hands UMass field hockey a loss to No. 9 Louisville

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts field hockey team’s inability to generate offense led to a 1-0 loss Sunday against No. 9 Louisville, marking its third loss in four games.

The Minutewomen (6-5, 2-1 Atlantic 10) lost their fourth one-goal game of the season and were shut out for the second time in 2015.

Louisville’s (7-4) Nicole Woods scored the game-deciding goal, her fourth of the year, in the 64th minute off a pass from Shannon Sloss from the top left of the circle to the front of the cage. The Cardinals then held the Minutewomen scoreless on their six shots.

UMass coach Carla Tagliente said she was impressed with her team’s effort and feels the Minutewomen can play with anyone in the country despite the loss. While nationally ranked, the Cardinals came into Sunday’s matchup on a two-game losing streak.

“We came out strong and played quite well (Sunday),” Tagliente said. “I was pleased with their effort and performance, especially being on the road the past couple of games.”

It was the defensive anchor in net that kept the Minutewomen competitive, as senior Sam Carlino had another remarkable performance by stopping four shots while allowing the game’s lone goal.

UMass had early chances to break through on the scoreboard. In the sixth minute, UMass was awarded a penalty corner for one of its three on the day. But Louisville goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran saved the ensuing shot by the Minutewomen’s Shauna Rankin-Byrne.

Less than 10 seconds later, UMass’ Allie Sabia shot wide of the net to keep the score at 0-0.

“We had some really good chances early on,” Tagliente said. “We need to stretch the field better and improve our ratio of getting balls inside the circle.”

The Minutewomen managed to get the ball in the circle nine teams in the first half, a number that is too low according to Tagliente.

“We got the ball past the 25-yard line 29 times in the first half,” Tagliente said. “We managed to get it in the circle just nine times so we need to improve that ratio.”

But it was Carlino’s strong play right out of the gate that kept the Minutewomen alive. The Cardinals had three chances with two penalty corners in the first two minutes of the game but Carlino and the UMass defense stood strong and did not allow a goal.

“The girls know we have potential to be very good,” Tagliente said. “Our problem is that we play up or down to our opponents and haven’t shown enough consistency.”

With a stagnant offense, the Minutewomen’s defense has been asked to take the brunt of the opponent’s attack. The defense has responded by holding opponents to 1.9 goals per game. Over its past six games in particular, UMass is holding its opposition to 1.33 goals per game, thanks in large part to its consistency in the back end.

“(The) defensive corner unit gave us energy and momentum,” Tagliente said. “They played outstanding.”

The best chance of Sunday’s game for the Minutewomen came off of a controversial call by the referee. Hannah Farrell received a pass at the top of the circle and was fouled but the referee called advantage. As Farrell slid by another defender, she was once again fouled, but managed to continue her momentum and score what appeared to be a goal. However, the referee ruled play dead for the foul and waved the goal off.

“They called a penalty corner when they really should have played advantage,” Tagliente said.

The tough road contest tested the Minutewomen’s grit and, although they came away with a loss, Tagliente said she was impressed with UMass’ performance coming off a low-energy 3-2 victory over last-place Saint Louis Friday.

“We played great today but we need to find a way to start winning these games,” Tagliente said. “This is the type of performance we need to bring to every game.”

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

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