UMass can stay near top of Atlantic 10 with conference wins this weekend

Minutewomen go on the road to battle Richmond and VCU

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UMass can stay near top of Atlantic 10 with conference wins this weekend

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

By Justin Ekstrom, Collegian Staff

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While the Massachusetts field hockey team has yet to win two consecutive games, it has reason for confidence after this past weekend which saw a heavily-improved defensive game and a strong victory against Atlantic 10 opponent Davidson.

UMass (5-7, 3-1 A-10) flies to Richmond, Virginia Wednesday night to get settled for a weekend of A-10 play. Richmond (3-8, 1-1 A-10) is first up at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by another afternoon game against VCU (6-4, 3-0 A-10) two days later.

Currently in third place, UMass has an opportunity to climb in the A-10. Against VCU, it has a chance to take down one of the two undefeated teams left in the conference. The other undefeated team left in the A-10 is Saint Joseph’s, the defending conference champions and the only A-10 team to defeat the Minutewomen so far in 2018.

With a sweep this weekend, UMass would move into second place with a 5-1 record in the A-10 and head-to-head victories over VCU, Richmond and Davidson.

One weakness for the Minutewomen is that their offense is sometimes absent in big games. They have been shut out in four games this season, including No. 14 St. Joe’s and two other ranked teams. In their previous matchup, UMass fell 1-0 to Providence.

“I don’t think [getting shut out in our last match] is discouraging at all,” said forward Chloe Hillier on her team’s offense. “I think it’s actually more motivating. We definitely feel ready for Richmond and we definitely feel more hungry to get that ‘W’… We should play each game as if we were playing in our Final Four Championship.”

Despite the lack of win streaks in their season, the Minutewomen have won each game following a shutout loss.

“Early in the week, we commit to focus on ourselves. Then once it gets closer to Friday, we will start scouting a bit,” said coach Barb Weinberg.

After allowing just one goal all of last weekend, the UMass defense seems to have found a groove. The Minutewomen found favorable results using an aggressive press and will look to deploy similar techniques this weekend.

UMass will have five games remaining in the regular season after this weekend, with a top-10 ranked Boston College and two more conference matchups awaiting them. Back-to-back wins would set the Minutewomen up to contend for the top spot in the A-10, while two losses would leave them with an uphill climb to make the tournament.

“At practice today and continuing on, the intensity and just working together as a group in the circle is going to really help us, especially in games that are going to be a little more competitive,” Hillier said.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JustinJEkstrom.