The Massachusetts field hockey team split this weekend’s games, losing 8-0 to Connecticut on Sunday after a 3-1 victory over La Salle Friday afternoon.
An offensive onslaught from UConn (11-0, 3-0 Big East) overwhelmed the UMass defense, which just two days before had held La Salle (6-4, 2-2 A-10) to only four shots on goal. The Minutewomen came out of the weekend 8-4 on the season.
UMass struggled on both sides of the ball, giving up 26 shots and taking only a single shot on goal in the game. Goalkeeper Emily Hazard made eight saves before giving way to freshman Camille Lecrone, who made three more.
The loss was a disappointment after two close games against ranked opponents earlier in the year, a loss to Stanford and a win against Boston University, that proved that the Minutewomen could play against top competition.
The weekend did provide reason for hope, as UMass won 3-1 over La Salle to earn another conference victory, moving to 3-1 in A-10 play on the year. Friday’s game featured a dominant second-half performance from the Minutewomen in which they scored twice and kept the Explorers from taking a single shot on goal.
The decisive goal was scored in the 50th minute on a penalty stroke by defender Melanie Kreusch, her sixth goal of the season and second of the day. Emma Bressler tacked on an insurance goal 12 minutes later to seal the victory.
“Our buildup on the attacking end was really good,” UMass coach Barb Weinberg said. “We were able to win penalty corners, which drew the penalty strokes.”
UMass finished with three goals on 14 shots to go with six penalty corners. Midfielder Mirra Stillman credited execution in the circle for the offensive output.
“It’s our main goal whenever we get inside the circle to get an outcome,” Stillman said. “That’s either a shot on goal or a penalty corner, and I think we did a really good job converting those. Unfortunately, there were a couple girls standing in front of the goal, so that’s where the strokes came out of, but I think we’re doing a really good job of getting those conversions and getting outcomes whenever we get attack.”
After struggling with turnovers in the first half, Weinberg cited a renewed focus on ball control for the Minutewomen’s dominant second half.
“In the first half we were turning the ball over a lot out of our backfield,” Weinberg said. “In the second half we were able to keep possession of the ball more, so we were preventing them from getting shots on goal because we weren’t turning the ball over on our defensive end.”
Once again, the defense did its part, as goalkeeper Emily Hazard held the Explorers to a single goal, marking the seventh game in a row that the Minutewomen gave up one goal or fewer.
“We did a good job in just maintaining,” Kreusch said. “We kind of changed our press too into a three-quarter press, so we forced them to make a long pass so we can go up and counterattack. We did a good job as a team switching and tackling outside the circle, a lot of communication too.”
The Minutewomen didn’t allow any shots on goal in the second half, stifling La Salle’s offense outside the circle.
“We really tried to focus on tackling outside of the circle, not allowing them to take those shots in the first place, and getting our sticks and players in the line, ball to goal,” Stillman said.
The Minutewomen return to action next Friday with a home game against VCU before going on the road to take on Providence next Sunday.
Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected]