Sara Davis stepping up for UMass field hockey

Reeling after two straight losses, Minutewomen looking to stabilize young backfield


Collegian File Photo

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

After a wave of injuries and absences hit the Massachusetts field hockey team, six players made their first starts for the Minutewomen in the last two weeks. One of those six was junior Sara Davis, who made her first start in the home opener against Michigan and has become a steady presence for UMass (2-4) since.

“I worked really hard for the last two years, and I feel like I’m ready for it,” Davis said. “But I’m doing what the team needs me to do, so I’m just trying to fill my roles.”

After seeing just 13 minutes in the first game of the season, Davis played a career-high 53 in a reserve role two days later against Northeastern before being tabbed for her first start later in the week, after the Minutewomen lost Sophie de Jonge to a family emergency. In the first six games, Davis has accumulated 262 minutes, already three more than her 2017 total.

Playing in the midfield, Davis has never taken a shot or scored a goal. Her job is to take passes from the defensive backfield and keep the ball moving forward, as well as disrupting the opposing offense and intercepting passes.

“Playing in that center role is pretty difficult, because you’re under a lot of pressure when you receive the ball,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “Her ability to get the ball in a tight space and then move it out of the central spot pretty quickly has gotten a lot better.”

In addition to coordinating the passes, Davis’ strength is coordinating with her teammates to move the attack forward.

“I kind of have to help everybody out in everybody’s positions,” Davis said. “We all help each other out anyway, but I feel like as the center people, we have a big role in communication.”

As UMass looks to reverse a two-game losing streak this weekend, it will rely on a young backfield that has been shuffled throughout the opening weeks. Freshmen Maggie Ellington and Mus Defauwes made their first starts last weekend in losses against UConn and Dartmouth.

“It was a rough weekend,” Davis said. “We really need to work on our teamwork, and we all have been. We need to work on being strong on the ball – I know me personally, I have to be strong on the ball – and be confident in ourselves. We had a lot of rough times in the past week, with people getting injured and having family emergencies, so we had to take up for them and step into big shoes, some of our freshmen did.”

With conference play starting against Lock Haven on Friday, the Minutewomen need to find their footing quickly.

“I think that since we’ve been here for a month and half, people are really getting used to the way everybody plays,” Davis said. “We just all work off of each other. We give each other constructive criticism all the time and just help each other out.”

The Minutewomen will get de Jonge back this weekend, but Davis is still expected to play a big role in the absence of sophomore Jenna Garber, who is out for the year after suffering an ACL tear.

“[Davis] will continue to get big minutes for us,” Weinberg said. “She didn’t have a huge amount of hockey experience coming into UMass. She’s trained so hard the last two years and prepared herself to be able to play in these games. So, credit to the work she’s done in the spring, and she’s stepped up huge when we really need her.”

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.