Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass field hockey falls to VCU in A-10 semifinals

Comeback falls short for Minutewomen in double overtime

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UMass field hockey falls to VCU in A-10 semifinals

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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For the second straight year, the Massachusetts field hockey team came back from a 2-0 deficit in the Atlantic 10 tournament, and for the second straight year, the Minutewomen suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in double overtime.

After UMass (10-10, 6-2 A-10) held its own in a scoreless 10-minute period, Virginia Commonwealth (12-6, 7-1 A-10) needed just under two minutes in the second overtime to break the tie. On a penalty corner, freshman Litiana Field fired a shot inside the right post, past the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Johanna von dem Borne, ending the Minutewomen’s season.

“I was really proud of the second half effort and the overtime effort,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t play well enough in the first half and conceded two goals, and when it comes championship time, that’s a tough thing to come back from.”

For the fourth straight game, UMass trailed after halftime, and for the fourth straight game, the Minutewomen came back to tie the game. UMass was behind 2-0 coming out of halftime, but cut the deficit in half five minutes later. Antonet Louw intercepted a pass deep in the midfield and passed to a sprinting Lucy Cooper, who cut through the Rams’ defense and scored on a one-on-one with VCU keeper Sasha Elliott.

Senior Courtney Ocasal, playing in her final game for UMass, swept in a deflected shot from Lucy Cooper to tie the game in the 52nd minute. It was Ocasal’s first collegiate goal.

“I’ve never coached a team where we came back in four games in a row at the end of the season there,” Weinberg said. “That prepared us for yesterday, no doubt. If you can come back from 4-0 against Northeastern, the mentality starts to set in that you can do that against anybody, and they didn’t for a second think that game was over yesterday at halftime.”

In the extra periods, the Rams dominated, holding UMass to just one shot on goal and prevented the Minutewomen from getting the ball into the attacking third. Highlight-worthy tackles from George McTear and Clodagh Moloney helped keep the game tied, as well as four overtime saves from von dem Borne.

After splitting time with redshirt freshman Megan Davies in the final games of the year, von dem Borne had one of her finest performances of the season on Friday, recovering from a shaky start to finish with nine saves.

“I think she probably wasn’t happy giving up those two goals in the first half, but she was able to put those 35 minutes behind her and come out in the second half,” Weinberg said. “Quite honestly, she made several game-saving saves in the second half and overtime and really kept us in the game.”

VCU nearly buried UMass in the first half, generating five penalty corners and scoring twice. Both goals came from A-10 leading scorer Emily McNamara, including one in the ninth minute that staked VCU to an early lead.

The Minutewomen mustered just one shot in the first half, with no penalty corners.

“We just couldn’t connect on any level, our basic skills were off,” Weinberg said. “Passing accuracy was off, our trapping was off, and the connection just wasn’t happening. Maybe a little bit of nerves. We have a very young team, a lot of them have never played in a championship before. So I think that definitely contributed to it.”

In 2017, UMass faced a 2-0 deficit to Saint Joseph’s late in the A-10 championship game before mounting a furious comeback and forcing overtime. That game went to double overtime, and again the Minutewomen fell 3-2 in the second overtime period.

With the loss, UMass’ seven-year streak of reaching the A-10 championship game was snapped.

“It’s just the experience moving forward,” Weinberg said. “Especially for our sophomores, who lost in double overtime during the A-10 tournament last year, it just makes them hungry, and it’s only going to fuel the fire. They want an A-10 championship more than anything, so it will be motivation for their training over the next year.”

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

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