UMass field hockey begins four-game homestand against conference opponents

UMass takes on conference rival Saint Joseph’s this weekend

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(Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian)

By Justin Ekstrom, Collegian Staff

Massachusetts field hockey has won its Atlantic 10 opener for the fifth straight year and will head into the weekend to continue the battle for a top conference spot against No. 11 ranked Saint Joseph’s and Richmond. It will be the beginning of a four-game homestand for the Minutewomen (3-4, 1-0 A-10).

After beating Saint Louis 2-0 last Saturday, UMass is confident yet still looking to improve heading into their next two games.

“Everyone wants to win your conference regular season so no doubt every game is going to be tough,” said coach Barb Weinberg, “I think our performance against Saint Louis gave us a good indication on what we need to improve on.”

Several newcomers have stood out for UMass this season. Freshman Bella Ianni showed off her talent against Saint Louis by scoring her first career goal early in the first period and netting a second to ensure the win late in the fourth, helping her earn Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors.

“I didn’t really believe it when I got it but it was quite awesome because when I turned around the whole team was looking at me and cheering me on,” Ianni said. “Once I got the second one I knew we had the game and were going to win.”

UMass’ next two games will test its offensive unit. Saint Joseph’s (6-1) has shown that they can score big, winning their season opener 9-1 over Hofstra. The Hawks have not allowed more than two goals against in their seven games so far. The same can be said of Richmond (5-3, 1-0 A-10) apart from losses to No. 6 Maryland and No. 13 Liberty

Saint Joseph’s appears to be the bigger challenge for the Minutewomen this weekend, as they are currently ranked 11th in the country and have been a formidable force in the A-10 since 2016. In the past three seasons the Hawks have won three conference titles and amassed a record of 23-1 in the A-10.

“Historically, UMass has been a frontrunner in the A-10 and Saint Joe’s has beat us the last couple of years,” Weinberg said. “Our current team looks at them as a top rival in the conference.”

While a 1-0 start is promising, a lot is at stake for the Minutewomen on Friday. One of the strengths for the Hawks this season has been putting heavy pressure in their opponents’ defensive end, causing trouble outletting the ball and maintaining possession.

Instead of focusing on this aspect of Saint Joseph’s game, UMass has spent the week perfecting a press of their own. The Minutewomen are aiming to be the team that brings the pressure, and will rely on their talent up front, such as captain Lucy Cooper, Georgie McTear and Jess Beech to put the ball past keeper Victoria Kammerinke.

Kammerinke, who has the most shutouts in Saint Joseph’s program history, has played exceptionally well this season making 30 saves. UMass’ Marlise van Tonder earned her first shutout of 2019 against Saint Louis but expects a different kind of game on Friday.

“It is going to be more of a defensive game than what it was against Saint Louis,” van Tonder said. “But we are up for the challenge and can match whatever they throw at us.”

Sunday’s match versus Richmond holds the same weight in terms of moving up in the A-10 standings, but will also feature off the field appeal. It is alumni weekend for UMass field hockey and on Sunday the team will give Hall of Fame recognition to Jenn Salisbury, class of 1993.

Friday’s match versus Saint Joseph’s begins at 3p.m. at Garber Field Hockey Complex. Sunday’s matchup will commence at noon.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected]