Massachusetts field hockey falls short against Richmond in 2-1 loss

Sunday’s game comes down to a decisive fourth quarter

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(Lynus Erickson/ Daily Collegian)

By Justin Ekstrom, Collegian Staff

Massachusetts field hockey faced yet another tough opponent when they stepped onto the field against Richmond on Sunday and could not recover after allowing Steffie Bongers’ decisive goal three minutes and 45 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Richmond (6-4, 2-1 Atlantic 10) worked a press that effectively kept the Minutewomen (3-6, 1-2 A-10) in their defensive half and minimized their success moving the ball out toward the Spiders’ net. This strategy worked in Richmond’s favor, as they only allowed six UMass shots to their 12 shots by the game’s end.

“We spent a lot of time late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter with the ball in our defensive end and had trouble working it out,” head coach Barb Weinberg said.

Richmond’s pressure proved the biggest challenge for the Minutewomen, but they also struggled in the final three quarters to convert any situations in the attacking circle into goals and did not manage to take advantage of second chance opportunities. In total, three penalty corners were generated, one in each of the final three quarters; these chances all fell short.

“How to problem solve,” Weinberg said on what could be learned from this match. “These types of games and the style of team that Richmond is, we have to think about smashing the ball up, posting up, getting penalty corners and converting on our penalty corners. That was the difference today.”

For nearly 40 minutes of play, the score was tied 1-1 and any goal was primed to swing momentum to either side. The Minutewomen had their best opportunity to steal that momentum on their lone third quarter penalty corner, getting off a clean shot that was promptly deflected out of the circle on a beautiful save by keeper Frankie-Lynne Conklin.

“It was a game of a lot of pressure,” midfielder Sophie de Jonge said. “It was definitely one that both sides wanted and I think Richmond wanted it more than we did.”

It was de Jonge who tied the score at one 8:59 into the first quarter after UMass gave up a goal to Richmond’s Elise Zwicklbauer – her sixth of the season – within the game’s first six minutes. Sophie Johnson, who let Zwicklbauer behind her just minutes before on the Richmond goal, brought the ball up the sideline and fired it inside the circle to de Jonge for the tip-in score.

“I saw [Johnson] and she is really good at long balls,” de Jonge said. “So, I waited for her to give a long one, and I made the first goal of my season.”

This was key in keeping the Minutewomen competitive for the majority of the game, as they only created one other shot beside the goal the entire first half. When Richmond eventually regained the lead, forcing starting goalkeeper Marlise van Tonder to step out of the cage after 53 plus minutes of playing time to give the Minutewomen a player advantage.

Van Tonder’s stellar saves kept UMass in the game on several occasions. Such standout play was seen midway through the third quarter when she made a kick save on a reverse shot within the circle, followed minutes later with a key block on one of Richmond’s five second half penalty corners to keep the game at 1-1.

Five of van Tonder’s seven saves came in the second half, showing how she stood strong between the bars even as the opposing pressure rose.

“Marlise came up huge with big saves late in the game,” said Weinberg, “it’s key for our goalkeeper not only to take care of the saves she should make but also to have one or two big saves to keep us in the game.”

UMass falls to 1-2 in A-10 play after two losses over the weekend and will have a break in conference play for its next two matchups.

The Minutewomen take on Northeastern at home Friday, Oct. 4 at 3 p.m.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected]