Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass field hockey back on top after capturing A-10 title with win over Richmond

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts field hockey team redeemed its crushing 2014 championship game loss to Richmond with a 3-0 win over the same Spiders Saturday to capture its fourth Atlantic 10 title in six years.

Despite a roller coaster of a regular season – UMass lost six out of eight games from Sept. 20 to Oct. 18 – the goal remained the same for coach Carla Tagliente and the Minutewomen: win the Atlantic 10 title and have a chance at the NCAA tournament. After a long year of preparation – the Minutewomen lost to the Spiders in the title game Nov. 8 last year – their moment arrived in grand fashion Saturday.

“It has been a long time, waiting 365 days for a shot at redemption,” Tagliente said. “It feels awesome and I am just really proud of the girls.”

UMass was clicking in all facets of the game Saturday and that showed just 14 minutes into the game, when the Minutewomen were awarded their first penalty corner of the contest. Izzie Delario passed it in to Melanie Kreusch who then found Delario darting for the net. The pass was right on target and Delario did not miss her opportunity.

Tagliente could not have drawn up a better play but it was the execution by Delario and Kreusch that gave the Minutewomen the lead.

“(Melanie) is performing exceptionally well right now,” Tagliente said. “She had a great assists to Izzie and that started it for us.”

Coming off a hat trick in Friday’s semifinal win in comeback fashion over La Salle, Kreusch shined again in the championship round with two more goals to provide insurance in UMass’ third shutout of the year.

“I can’t explain the amount of pressure (Kreusch) must have felt (in the semifinal game) being down 2-0 early,” Tagliente said. “She welcomed the challenge and is really a gamer.”

Ten minutes after Delario’s first goal, the Minutewomen capitalized once again on a penalty corner when Kreusch took it herself and scored her fourth goal of the tournament.

The sophomore from Belgium then notched her second goal of the day coming out of halftime in the 50th minute off another penalty corner.

The goal, on UMass’ fifth penalty corner of the game, provided a dagger to Richmond’s title aspirations. The Minutewomen finished 3-of-6 on penalty corner opportunities.

“We are clicking right now on both sides of the ball and on penalty corners,” Tagliente said. “One of our biggest strengths right now is attacking corners.”

Heading into halftime with a 2-0 lead, the Minutewomen knew they had a great chance in front of them being 35 minutes away from their first A-10 title in two years. However, Tagliente preached patience and focus to avoid a second half letdown.

“We focus on the task at hand and just being in the moment,” Tagliente said. “In the past, we have looked too far ahead but this year our heads are in the present tense.”

UMass’ path toward return to the top of the conference was a slippery slope all year for the Minutewomen. They snuck their way into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed with two straight conference wins to end the season. Now, they are conference champions heading into their first NCAA tournament since 2014.

“There were a lot of ups-and-downs all season,” Kreusch said. “To get here we had to stay together and stay focused.”

In addition to Kreusch’s heroics, Delario added an assist to finish with two points Saturday and Cliodha Loughlin added two assists. In goal, senior Sam Carlino made three saves to preserve the shutout.

Tyler can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.

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