UMass field hockey controls its own tournament destiny

By Tyler Fiedler

#9 Izzie Delario. Alec Zabrecky/ Daily Collegian
#9 Izzie Delario. Alec Zabrecky/ Daily Collegian

There is something special about playing late in a season, when every team is fighting for a chance to make it past the aches and pains of the regular season and to give themselves the opportunity to create something exceptional.

With two games left on the regular season schedule, the Massachusetts field hockey team has the chance to extend its up-and-down year with a win. UMass’s destiny is in its own hands. It will not be an easy task for the Minutewomen (8-8, 4-3 Atlantic 10) as they face two very tough opponents. Wednesday, they’ll kick off the final stretch of the season when they travel to Connecticut to face the No. 2 Huskies.

UConn (17-0) has an extremely talented team, led by one of the best players in the country in Charlotte Veitner. She has been dynamic offensively this season, scoring 30 goals and racking up 77 points in 17 games. The Huskies have also outscored opponents 104-6 this season.

The Minutewomen will need to continue their hot scoring and strong defense in order to keep UConn at bay. Izzie Delario is the leader of the UMass offense, and as she goes, the rest of the Minutewomen follow. Her ball skills and quickness have created havoc for opponents this season. Delario has five goals and nine assists on the year, good enough to lead the team with 19 points. She also is UMass’s best option for corners, as Delario has inserted 49 of 73 penalty corners the Minutewomen have received.

UMass faces a tough challenge in the Huskies, and a loss would still be disappointing, but the non-conference affair is just a prequel to the team’s season finale on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Davidson.

“The bigger game on the table for us is the last one against Davidson,” coach Carla Tagliente said. “We have to win it, we know that.”

If the Minutewomen come away with a victory against the Wildcats (8-8, 5-2 A-10), that will most likely propel UMass into the A-10 tournament. It will be no easy task as both of them are very comparable teams. UMass and Davidson have identical records, but the Wildcats have one more win than the Minutewomen in conference play.

UMass holds a share of third place in the conference. A win will get them in as the tournament consists of the top four teams in the A-10. Richmond and Davidson are locks to make it with 5-1 and 5-2 conference records, respectively.

If all goes well for the Minutewomen and they take care of business at Davidson, they will give themselves a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament, as the winner of the A-10 championship receives an automatic bid to the tournament. The last time UMass qualified for the national tournament was in 2013, when it advanced to the second round before losing to runner-up Duke 4-1.

This year, the Minutewomen believe they have the talent to do something special. When asked how her team would fare in the tournament, Delario was full of confidence, and said she had no doubt in the team.

Tagliente knows how to get her team to perform well under pressure, as she has led UMass to two conference championships in the last four seasons.

“Our backs have been against the wall the past two games,” Tagliente said. “I actually think we are better in that position, we are up for the challenge and were just going to go out and play our best and see where the chips falls.”

Tyler Fiedler can be reached at [email protected]