Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Contrasting offenses to clash in UMass field hockey’s first round of A-10 championship

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Friday’s Atlantic-10 semifinal game against St. Joseph’s University will be the first obstacle the Massachusetts field hockey team will have to go through if they wish to be crowned conference champions.

Though the Hawks (9-8, 5-3 A-10) possess the strongest offensive force in the A-10 with Anna Willocks, UMass is capable of distributing the weight equally amongst five impact offensive players.

Willocks leads all A-10 scorers with 16 goals on the season, and has helped St. Joe’s become the highest scoring team in the conference with 48 goals. Following Willcocks there is a significant drop-off as, the next highest scorer on the Hawks is Emily Nonnemacher with five goals.

The depth in the Minutewomen’s midfield and front line has helped keep the team relevant in a season when they had a hard time finding their groove. Sarah Hawkshaw leads the UMass scorers with seven goals while Nicole Miller and Melanie Kreusch sit on her tail each with six. In addition Izzie Delario and Anne Dijkstra have made impacts with five and four goals respectively.

“It’s been nice,” head coach Carla Tagliente said of the plethora of UMass attackers. “It definitely helps if someone is not on their game to have someone else step up and put some in.”

In the Minutewomen’s last three conference games – all must-win games­ – they tallied 13 total goals. Of the 13, not one player scored more than three. UMass received scoring contributions from nine different players in those games against Virginia Commonwealth, La Salle and Davidson.

“We have quite a bit of talent and quite a lot of people rolling in this forward line. We do a good amount of rotations as the game progresses so we really do have fresh legs,” Delario said following the team’s practice Tuesday.

The recent chain of success could be attributed to the gain in confidence after each win.

“I think a lot of it is confidence and poise on the ball, knowing when to attack and knowing when to work it around appropriately,” Delario said.

Tagliente compared this year’s squad to that of the 2012 team that went 15-9, winning the A-10 tournament and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“We didn’t have anyone that scored a ton of goals. It was really distributed amongst five-six people,” Tagliente said.

Tagliente stressed that the biggest concern she has when facing St. Joe’s is limiting its corner shot opportunities.

“I think we just need to limit the amount of corners we give up, that’s probably the biggest thing right now,” Tagliente said.

The aggressiveness that the Hawks display on offense is a big reason as to why they are the highest scoring offense in the A-10.

This high caliber offense though will meet a Minutewomen defense that has been nearly perfect as of late. In the Minutewomen’s final four games of the regular season they have only let up four total goals and have posted two shutout victories.

“Our press has been doing really well, we’ve been intercepting balls and stuff like that,” UMass goalkeeper Sam Carlino said.

St. Joe’s has not experienced the same success on defense as UMass has. The Hawks have let up 44 goals on the season (third most in A-10) and are averaging 2.59 goals allowed per game. Compare that to the Minutewomen who have let up 28 goals and only 1.65 on average.

The contrast between the two styles of offense and the performance of each teams defense could be the determining factors of the game.

According to Tagliente the A-10 tournament is arriving at the perfect time for UMass.

“I don’t necessarily think we have peaked but I think we are peaking at the right time,” Tagliente said.

 

Philip Sanzo can be reached [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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