UMass capitalizes on penalty corners in 3-0 win over Northeastern

Minutewomen scored twice in the circle while denying all nine chances for the Huskies

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Thom Kendall/ UMass Athletics

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts field hockey team turned its meticulous preparation of special teams into a dominant showcase within the circles at the Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex, resulting in a 3-0 win over Northeastern.

UMass (1-0) attempted only five penalty corners on the afternoon but capitalized on consecutive chances in the first quarter, resulting in an early lead. On the other side of the ball, the Huskies (0-1) attempted nine corners, but none found their way past  Marlise Van Tonder.

The Minutewomen had a clear strategy for how it would attack corners against Northeastern. From the opening pass to set up to the shot attempt, combined with execution and heightened aggression towards the ball, paid dividends on Friday.

“We’ve been practicing our attack penalty corners a lot,” head coach Barb Weinberg said. “Our tippers are getting in there and being more threatening than they have been in the past.”

Graduate student Georgie McTear was the beneficiary of the second penalty corner that found the back of the net, taking the feed and firing the ball past the Huskies goalkeeper and into the top of the cage.

“We really worked on our scrimmages and brought forward our attacking mentality,” McTear said. “So I really just knew how much we’d be working penalty corner attack and knew that I just had to fire it home and that’s what I did.”

Aggression on penalty corners transitioned to the defensive side as well, with the Minutewomen smothering the ball and blocking multiple shot attempts by Northeastern to protect their lead.

And while the players executed on the field, Weinberg made sure they were in a position to succeed with her detailed preparation.

“Defensively the other coach and I were playing a bit of a chess match,” Weinberg said. “We were able to scout a little bit from the spring, they had a lot of their personnel back, so we had an idea of what they may run.”

Early in the fourth quarter the Huskies found themselves knocking on the door and on the verge of breaking through on the scoreboard. But the defense stood tall, and when needed, Van Tonder delivered clutch saves to keep her shutout intact.

“Unbelievable,” Weinberg said of Van Tonder’s performance. “Especially when they have four, five, six corners in a row for a goalkeeper to hold her balance and really keep calm is absolutely key for being able to work the ball back out.”

Those stops allowed UMass to create transition offense and push the pace back against the unsettled Huskies midfield. And though that transition didn’t result in a goal on Friday, seeing the chances provided another confidence boost for the Minutewomen.

“We practiced that breakout a lot,” Weinberg said. “We knew rather than to run with it, let the ball do the work, because it’s going to get there faster, and if you can do that successfully you’ll always be numbers up on a counterattack.”

A focused UMass put its practice to the test and passed against Northeastern, protecting home turf and confidently gliding towards its first win. The Minutewomen face another test on Sunday when they take on Maine at 1 p.m.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC