Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Quick strike propels UMass against No. 25 Northeastern

UMass scored 35 seconds into the game
Parker Peters

The 2019 Massachusetts field hockey team is notorious for starting games slowly. Friday was the exact opposite.

Before one minute had elapsed, UMass (4-6) found itself on the scoreboard leading No. 25 Northeastern (6-4) 1-0. It never relinquished that lead, adding one in the final minute to secure a 2-0 shutout win.

“It was a really great feeling,” midfielder Jess Beech said. “We always want to start off with a nice, quick early goal to set the standard for the match and know that we are here to win.”

At the start of the game, Beech, a freshman from Marlow, England, took an outlet pass and sidestepped a defender to bring the ball into the attacking 25 with a numbers advantage for UMass. A Northeastern defender gained possession of it momentarily after Beech passed the ball out wide, but thanks to the numbers advantage the Minutewomen had in the zone, they forced a turnover. Beech once again found the ball back on her stick and let it fly from the right of the cage, sneaking it by the traffic in front of the net and finding the corner.

It was the momentum shift the Minutewomen had been looking for all season long.

“It was a really big boost,” Beech said. “Statistics say that the first goal that goes in is most likely to win the game. So, it’s really good for us to win that first.”

Friday’s game added to the statistic.

Even after the goal 34 seconds into the game, the Minutewomen did not let up the intensity. They sustained consistent pressure in the game’s first five minutes, earning two penalty corners in addition to the goal. This all came before the ball even entered UMass’ defending 50.

“It was a huge part of our game plan to move the ball quickly,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “And we came out and we were able to do that. A lot of two-touch hockey and really played the ball going forward and were able to generate attack right away. And anytime you are able to start a game with that kind of momentum, it is going to [keep] our opponent on their heels.”

Throughout the week of practice, Weinberg stressed the importance of a fast start.

“I think out of all weeks, we really had our best of preparation and really specifically how we wanted to come out against Northeastern,” Weinberg said. “How we wanted to press and how we wanted to outlet.”

The team that scores first in games involving the Minutewomen have been a major indicator of who is going to win. In its four wins, UMass has always scored first. In all six of their losses, the Minutewomen relinquished the first goal.

Scoring a goal so quickly in the game gave UMass the confidence it needed heading forward. Northeastern marked the fifth ranked opponent the Minutewomen have faced. In the previous four, their record was 0-4, and in those previous four, they found themselves down 1-0.

“Playing with the lead is always good because you always have a quiet confidence in the background,” Beech said. “If you ever have to come back, you have got to use your gut and dig deep.”

Fortunately for UMass, that wasn’t necessary. The Minutewomen will look to bury the first goal in Sunday’s contest when they host New Hampshire.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @TimSorota.

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