Strong opening and closing quarters puts UMass over Northeastern in season opener

UMass shuts out Northeastern 3-0 on Friday

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Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

The heat was visibly radiating off the turf on Friday afternoon in Amherst, Mass. as the ball bounced off a stick and into the goal, leading to the first celebration of the season for the Massachusetts field hockey team.

The whistle blew and a corner ensued with just under nine minutes left in the opening quarter, and the Minutewomen’s (1-0) capitalization led to an early 1-0 lead. Jess Beech opened the season with a goal off a rebound from the left side. Drawing first blood set the tone early for the hungry UMass team, but the ticket to secure success came in the final quarter.

After goalkeeper Marlise van Tonder protected the net when Northeastern (0-1) had its share of corners late in the fourth quarter, sophomore Izzy Acquaviva crushed any hope the Huskies had.

With seven minutes remaining, Amelie Green sent it over to Acquaviva who lifted it over Northeastern’s Erin Savage. The hugs that followed were a mixed bag of a 3-0 lead and celebration of Acquaviva’s first collegiate goal.

“It’s huge,” UMass coach Barb Weinberg said of those types of goals. “In field hockey, being up 2-0 and 3-0 is a huge difference. If Northeastern puts one goal in, then they are right back in the game so 3-0 with [Acquaviva] securing that one lets you take a little bit of a breather.”

The second goal of the game came shortly after the first, just under two minutes later. On another corner play, midfielder Georgie McTear found the back of the net on a pass from Beech. But once the heat kicked in, it gave Northeastern the chance to step up and catch fire.

“It turned out those two goals were key for us,” Weinberg said. “Our performance dropped off a bit in the second and third quarters, so it was good that we were able to get out in front early in the game. Then we were able to come back in the fourth quarter and have a strong finish.”

As the heat began to take a toll specifically on the Minutewomen midfielders, there was a lot of diving in for tackles which meant that line was getting beat. When Weinberg noticed, it was necessary to adjust to ensure the Huskies wouldn’t capitalize on a slower, less energetic Minutewomen team.

It was a matter of staying in the play and midfielders helping out defenders, so UMass had the numbers back to protect.

In the 2020-2021 season, UMass finished with seven wins, one of them being against Northeastern. McTear’s game winning goal sent the Minutewomen home with a 2-1 win. Despite the difference in weather and location this time around, the UMass team that the Huskies faced was rather similar.

The Minutewomen took to the season with almost the entirely same squad from the spring. Van Tonder, originally from South Africa, was unable to compete in the 2021 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions but recorded a shutout in her first game back since 2019. The returners brought depth and maturity on the field, and the work ethic of eager freshmen meant things strung together well for UMass to start the season.

“It’s an interesting mix,” Weinberg said. “Our returners and our more experienced players felt like it was truly a continuation of the spring, but we have a lot of newcomers who are contributing as well.”

UMass stays home to face Maine on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Lulukesin