UMass field hockey wins a shootout thriller to secure tournament berth

UMass clinch A-10 playoff berth on Senior Day

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UMass field hockey wins a shootout thriller to secure tournament berth

Eva Trainer

Eva Trainer

Eva Trainer

By Kevin Schuster, Collegian Staff

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Facing a must-win against Virginia Commonwealth, the Massachusetts field hockey team battled through 80 scoreless minutes and 10 shootout attempts to come out with a 1-0 win and a spot in the A-10 tournament.

It was midfielder Sophie de Jonge who converted UMass’ (10-8 NCAA, 6-2 A-10) 10th shootout attempt to get the victory against VCU in a game so evenly-matched that two overtimes weren’t enough to determine a winner. The Rams (8-8 NCAA, 4-4 A-10) trailed the Minutewomen by only one win in A-10 play, making this game a must win scenario for either team to finish in the top four of the A-10 and clinch a tournament berth.

“It was a very tight game,” UMass goalkeeper Marlise van Tonder said. “You could see VCU prepared very well, but so did we. Our focus throughout the week was completely on this game, since we knew it was make-or-break for our season.”

The game was marked Senior Day for UMass, as de Jonge, Sara Davis, and Michelle Barrett were attending their last game at the Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex. De Jonge played the majority of the time in the midfield for the Minutewomen, as playing time was scarce in such an important game where any tactical adjustment is crucial.

“All three have had an unbelievable impact on our program,” coach Barb Weinberg said. “They’re all great leaders and come with an even-keeled attitude, ready to work every day at practice. It’s bittersweet, but I’m glad that at their last home game here they were able to come out with a win.”

It was all the sweeter for de Jonge, who stepped up to convert the game-winning shootout goal for UMass after both teams went back and forth for 20 total shootout attempts.

“I’m honored to be the one who scored it,” de Jonge said. “I’m even more honored I was one of the five who were chosen to go step in front and take one and even get a chance to score.”

VCU almost got a game-winning goal with two minutes left in overtime when a deflected shot caused van Tonder to fall onto her back, leaving an open net. Josie Rossbach and company for the UMass defense quickly cleared the ball out of harm’s way to avoid a golden opportunity for the Rams.

Van Tonder played a huge role in the Minutewomen’s victory, as she recorded three saves and six shootout saves. UMass came well prepared for the shootout, practicing weekly to make sure they feel comfortable in case of the rare occurrence like today.

“I think they’re so much fun,” van Tonder said. “I treated the shootout today just like a training session because it takes the pressure off a little bit. I took them one by one and went from there.”

There was nothing to split the two sides statistically as both teams had very few shots and penalty corners and relied on maintaining possession throughout in order to develop goal scoring chances.

“It was one of the most evenly matched games I’ve ever coached,” Weinberg said. “Credit to VCU who has a pretty small roster. I think for them being able to compete all the way through in overtime with not many subs is incredible.”

The Minutewomen will face a tough challenge Sunday as they travel to Connecticut to face the third ranked team in the country, the UConn Huskies. Even though UMass already clinched an A-10 tournament spot, a win against by far the toughest opponent of the season would give it huge momentum heading into playoffs.

Kevin Schuster can be reached at [email protected]