UMass field hockey hosts first games at home in search of a winning record

UMass faces new challenges in No. 20 UAlbany and No. 10 Harvard

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UMass field hockey hosts first games at home in search of a winning record

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

By Justin Ekstrom, Collegian Staff

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Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex will host the first two Massachusetts home games of the 2019 season, as the Minutewomen (2-2) take on two more ranked opponents before returning to Atlantic 10 Conference play. Though early in the year, playing against No. 20 UAlbany and No. 10 Harvard allows UMass an opportunity to improve against formidable competition before heading to Saint Louis next Saturday for A-10 play.

Harvard (1-1) came out on top with a 2-1 overtime win against UAlbany (1-2) when they faced off earlier this season.

Despite losing both of their opening weekend games with poor offensive showings, UMass finally found their stride with a four goal performance against Yale. They continued their success with a hard earned overtime victory at Dartmouth, the winning tally coming from Minutewoman midfielder Georgie McTear.

“I think my season started slow,” McTear said. “Losing 7-0 is always a tough one to swallow, but I think we really stepped up [against Louisville] and I feel like I really stepped it up, as well as at Yale. The Dartmouth overtime goal was the highlight of my season so far.”

In their two wins, UMass has put pressure on opponents by earning 15 penalty corners while only giving up four. Control of this aspect of the game should carry into their Albany game but despite the lopsided number, UMass was unable to score on any of their corners in their 1-0 win over Dartmouth.

Adjustments on defense after week one also helped propel the Minutewomen to a .500 record. For the first four games, Josie Rossbach has been the backbone of Massachusetts’ defensive line, making a difference outside of the stats box.

Impressively, Rossbach has started as a freshman – one of six newcomers in the starting lineup for UMass – including offensive threat Steph Gottwals and midfielder Jess Beech. Beech has a high ceiling and has been a difference maker so far for the Minutewomen. She has already amassed five shots on goal, two goals and a game-winning assist this season.

Improvements and player expectations aside, there is another favorable factor influencing this weekend for UMass. An entire week void of traveling after four away games in four different states should not be overlooked.

“I think [home field] is absolutely beneficial,” commented coach Barb Weinberg. “One of our biggest challenges against Dartmouth was that they laid a new turf in June and it was pretty bouncy. Our team had trouble adjusting to that a bit, but it was good to have that adversity and still come out with the win and I think our team is super excited to come out and play at home.”

The Minutewomen can expect pressure from these ranked opponents no matter where they are playing, and therefore may rely on their goalkeepers in critical situations. After showing improvements as an extremely active leader on and off the field, sophomore keeper Megan Davies has earned the starting role in net and captainship for the 2019 season.

However, UMass has three goalkeepers on its expanded roster and is looking to take a different approach this season, which we may see implemented in one of these weekend matches.

“The biggest thing to know is that they all have different strengths and each one of them will get playing time this season,” Weinberg said. “It’s going to depend on the game and the situation and how strong of a week each one of them had leading up to the game. We are going to play the best goalkeeper leading up to the game no matter what age they are.”

Albany visits Gladchuk to take on the Minutewomen on Saturday at 3 p.m. Harvard will follow on Monday at 5 p.m.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected]