Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass field hockey defeats Saint Joseph’s to set up A-10 finals rematch

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

For the fourth consecutive season the Massachusetts field hockey team has reached the Atlantic 10 finals following a comeback victory against Saint Joseph’s Friday afternoon.

For much of the regular season, the Minutewomen (10-8, 5-3 A-10) did not seem at their best, especially on the offensive side. But their thrilling 5-2 victory over the Hawks in the A-10 semifinal game proved otherwise.

Saint Joseph’s entered Friday’s matchup, played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, having only managed to win four games to the Minutewomen’s 30 in head-to-head action.

But an early second half goal and a botched UMass penalty corner nine minutes later ultimately resulted in a Hawks’ 2-0 lead with 24 minutes left to play.

The Minutewomen fought their way back however and broke through offensively, scoring five straight goals in the final stretch.

UMass’ comeback was spurred by an offensive burst from Melanie Kreusch shortly after the Minutewomen went down two goals. The sophomore scored three consecutive goals within 12 minutes to give UMass its first lead of the game in the 62nd minute.

Minutewomen coach Carla Tagliente believed that the team’s early deficit provided a spark for UMass to get going on offense.

“Really going down 2-0 was the turning point. I saw a different energy with the group and a really different team step up and rise to the occasion,” Tagliente said.

Kreusch’s hat trick consisted of two penalty stroke goals. The first hit the top left corner of the net and second also went towards the left side.

When asked what was going through her mind at the time of the shots, the sophomore midfielder said, “Just basically to put it in, I have been practicing it.”

With six minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the game, St. Joseph’s decided to pull its goalkeeper Amelia Deibler. UMass then capitalized on two additional goals off the sticks of Nicole Miller and Sarah Hawkshaw.

Alongside the Minutewomen’s late surge, a solid defensive performance allowed UMass to stay in the game against the A-10’s top-ranked offense. Saint Joseph’s Anna Willocks entered the game with a conference-leading 16 goals on the season, but was completely shut down by the UMass defense for no points.

Willocks was double-teamed for the majority of the game and only managed four shots.

UMass relied on the press coverage for the majority of the game, forcing the Hawks to make mistakes and waste opportunities.

“We were really aggressive on intercepting, a lot of times they would try to hit long balls and we would just step up and intercept the ball before they could even get it,” UMass senior goalkeeper Sam Carlino said.

Carlino made five saves in net Friday.

Tagliente has led the Minutewomen to the A-10 championship in five of her six seasons as coach, and of those five UMass has won three conference championships. Last season ended in heartbreak when the Minutewomen failed to secure their third straight title after losing to Richmond in the finals.

To Tagliente though, this year’s team is much different.

“They are just hungry, I think they are excited to be there, I think they are excited to have the opportunity,” Tagliente said. “It’s very different than past years where there is kind of an uncertainty, you’re there, there’s pressure on you to win it. I think there is just excitement to win it.”

UMass returns to the finals looking for revenge in a rematch with the Spiders. The A-10 championship game will take place Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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

About the Writer
Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor
A six-run fourth inning gives UMass victory over Northeastern at Fenway Park.
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