UMass battling in three-way tie for second place in Atlantic 10 conference

Massachusetts field hockey rides momentum into a must-win Friday matchup

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UMass battling in three-way tie for second place in Atlantic 10 conference

(Anish Roy/Daily Collegian)

(Anish Roy/Daily Collegian)

(Anish Roy/Daily Collegian)

(Anish Roy/Daily Collegian)

By Justin Ekstrom, Collegian Staff

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Massachusetts field hockey currently finds itself in a three-way tie for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with Lock Haven (8-7, 4-2 A-10) and Richmond (8-7, 4-2 A-10). Saint Joseph’s (13-1, 6-0 A-10) sits ahead of the pack in first place. The Minutewomen (7-7, 4-2 A-10) have five games remaining.

UMass takes on the first of its last two conference games this Friday against La Salle, who are coming off three straight losses. However, the Explorers (6-9, 3-3 A-10) are just one place behind the three teams tied in the conference.

“[La Salle] is going to be playing with nothing to lose and just really going for it,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “Everyone wants a place in the top four in that conference tournament. If some things happen they could still be in contention for that. This game is just as important to them as it is to us.”

All factors considered – only two games left to rise in the ranks, the three way tie and La Salle’s proximity to UMass in the A-10 – Friday is essentially a must win match if the Minutewomen hope to finish top four and make the NCAA tournament down the line.

The Minutewomen have won eight road games in a row, which has not been done since 2008, and recorded shutouts their last two games. UMass heads into the weekend with momentum and hopes to translate its road success at home, where it is just 1-5.

A strong defensive unit has steadily improved all season long, contributing to their momentum and aiding the shutouts. Josie Rossbach is one defensive player who surprised with her talent and has made a difference in recent matches.

“Josie almost came out of nowhere in preseason. We were all shocked by how good she was,” Lucy Cooper said, “Her defensive skills and her speed – she can outrun most strikers that we’ve played – are really exciting and her outletting has improved.”

Rossbach, a freshman from Virginia, is a prime example of off-the-stats-sheet efficiency that leads to UMass’ success. Rossbach has made a difference without scoring or assisting by showcasing her defensive skills and being a staple in the lineup.

She has started all 14 games and racked up playtime, playing 809 out of 845 minutes this season and going the distance eight different matches, rarely stepping off the field for more than a few minutes.

Although UMass’ defense has locked down opponents, the team has steadily practiced on offensive play for the upcoming two games.

“Two more shutouts would be fantastic, but over the last two weeks we’ve really worked on our goal scoring,” Weinberg said. “While we haven’t had an incredible number of shots on goal, our percentages in terms of getting them on goal has been better and we’ve been able to score more goals based on the shots we are taking.”

Captain Lucy Cooper has led the Minutewomen offense all year, especially in recent games. In her last five games, Cooper has put up three goals, four assists and 12 shots. She will most likely be a key component again this Friday and Sunday.

“Lucy has really taken off toward the end of this season here,” Weinberg said. “She’s been on the incline, just working, working, working and finally has really settled in.”

Boston University, like La Salle, comes off three consecutive losses. The Terriers (4-10, 1-3 Patriot League) have not found success in the 2019 season and have lost nine of 10 and getting outscored by opponents 26-13 in that stretch, having a 1:2 goals for/against ratio.

The three remaining out of conference games take the pressure off UMass but still provide use.

“These are games to improve,” Cooper said, “BU, UConn and ULowell are not practice games but we can try different things out and get ourselves going for the A-10 Championships.”

Friday’s home matchup versus La Salle starts at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s against BU begins at 1 p.m.

Justin Ekstrom can be reached at [email protected]