Friday’s game against Richmond will end the regular season for the Massachusetts field hockey team, which looks to snap a three-game losing streak before heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament.
UMass (11-7, 5-2 A-10), which secured entry into the A-10 tournament last Sunday after Richmond (8-9, 6-1 A-10) defeated Saint Francis, now prepares to take on the Spiders themselves.
“Richmond, they’re a super-fast, gritty team,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “They’ve got a lot of speed on the forward line, they’ve got a talented goalkeeper this year. They’re going to be threatening on the attacking end, and it’s not going to be easy to score goals, so we need to continue work on scoring field goals and not just on our PCs (penalty corners).”
The Spiders began the season with a seven-game losing streak, but since then have won eight of ten, with their only two losses coming against ranked teams James Madison and Wake Forest.
Although both teams are already guaranteed tournament entry, the game will be key in determining the tournament seeding. After losing against Saint Joseph’s last Friday, UMass fell out of the running for the top seed, but it could still end up second place with a win. With a loss and a Virginia Commonwealth University win, it could fall to fourth place.
Senior forward Sarah Hawkshaw said that the team was preparing for any of their potential tournament opponents.
“I don’t like to look at the seedings,” Hawkshaw said. “Last year, we came in as [the] fourth seed and ended up coming out on top. Every year since I’ve been here, the only year we’ve been [the] number one seed was I think my freshman year, and we didn’t win it.”
She added, “I personally like to be an underdog going into things, so I don’t mind the seeding, it doesn’t bother me. Any game in the A-10s is going to be tough. To me it doesn’t matter who we play in the first round.”
The loss to Saint Joseph’s last Friday was easily the worst showing during what is now a three-game losing streak for the Minutewomen, who allowed five unanswered goals that wiped away a two-goal halftime lead. After that second-half collapse, UMass was shut out at home on Sunday by Yale.
“The big loss we had this weekend was the second half of the St. Joe’s game,” Hawkshaw said. “I think other than that, our performance has been quite consistent. The first half of St. Joe’s, and we outplayed Yale, we just couldn’t get the ball in the goal. Second half against St. Joe’s, we lowered what we expected of ourselves, and obviously that’s not been consistent with what we’ve been doing.”
The skid started with a tight 2-1 loss in double overtime against ninth-ranked Northwestern, which saw the Minutewomen battle back to tie the game in the 69th minute and force overtime.
“After the Northwestern game, we started thinking, ‘Oh, we’re a good team,’” senior defender Melanie Kreusch said. “We let ourselves get content with that last weekend instead of trying to keep improving.”
In practice this week, UMass was focusing on outletting and scoring from the field, two recurring themes this season that resurfaced in last weekend’s games. In particular, Hawkshaw emphasized positioning around the goals, which cost them against Yale.
“So, what we were doing a lot of was carving the baseline, and we weren’t getting in correct scoring positions to get the ball into the goal or to receive the ball off the ball carrier,” Hawkshaw said. “We’ve been working on that a lot so far this week, and we’ll continue working on it the next two weeks going into the A-10s.”
Friday’s game begins at noon at Gladchuk Field.
Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected]