Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass field hockey excited for chance to compete in Atlantic 10 tournament against Saint Joseph’s

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

After reaching the Atlantic 10 finals and losing to Richmond in last season’s conference tournament, the Massachusetts field hockey team is excited for its return to the postseason this year.

The Minutewomen (9-8, 5-3 A-10) will head to Philadelphia this Friday to take on Saint Joseph’s at 11 a.m. in the semifinal round. Although UMass is the higher seed at No. 2, the game will be held at the Hawks’ home field as Saint Joseph’s is the host of the tournament.

On Sept. 18, the Minutewomen defeated St. Joe’s 3-1 in Amherst, but the Hawks have been playing better as of late. St. Joe’s has won its last four games and has outscored its opponents 15-to-9 during that span.

Junior defender Hannah Farrell is looking forward to returning to the playoffs and acknowledged that the team is very fortunate to be in the postseason at all following a rough midseason stretch.

Before winning two straight to close out the regular season, the Minutewomen had lost six of their previous eight games.

“Given the season we have had, we’ve had a really rough season, to even be in the A-10s is realization of how important it is to play well,” she said. “There is definitely a lot more fire power behind us this year than there was last year and maybe the year before.”

The Hawks are led by freshman forward Anna Willocks, who hails from New Zealand. Willocks has started every game this season and has scored 16 goals, notched four assists and totaled 36 points on the year. Willocks has taken 61 shots, while the second shot leader, Jenny Morris, has only taken 30 shots and scored four goals.

Farrell recognizes that Willocks and the rest of St. Joe’s have been playing well recently, but she is confident in the way her team has been playing too.

“We have been on a good roll these past four or five games too, even though we lost to BC, it was a really good game and they are really highly ranked,” Tagliente said. “I think St. Joe’s is undefeated on their home field, so there’s pressure and we want to upset them. But we are just motivated going into the tournament because we don’t take it for granted because we nearly didn’t make it.”

This has been an important week in practice for UMass due to the lack of time it has to prepare for another opponent if they beat St. Joe’s. The A-10 championship game will be played the next day at 2 p.m.

“We’ve worked on a lot of defensive stuff today in practice. But we also have Richmond and Davidson in our minds so the coaches made a lot of drills specific to how they play,” Farrell said.

Farrell also does not believe that the Minutewomen will be fazed by the trip to Pennsylvania because they have done so much traveling already this season.

“It’s a long bus journey but we are used to it. Nearly every season we travel down there,” Farrell said. “Also, a lot of our girls are from (Pennsylvania), so it’s kind of a second home for us…the travel doesn’t really affect us at all.”

If the Minutewomen win the A-10 tournament they will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, which begins Saturday, Nov. 14.

“Last year was frustrating to know that we would have gotten a straight bid into the NCAAs if we had won, so that’s a lot of motivation for us,” Farrell said.

Matthew Zackman can be reached at [email protected]

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