UMass edges out Maine 3-2 in overtime thriller

Steph Gottwals scored twice for the Minutewomen, including the game winner


Thom Kendall/ UMass Athletics

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

With under 30 seconds to go in regulation, the Massachusetts field hockey team watched the ball trickle past Marlise Van Tonder as Maine converted a penalty corner sending Sunday’s contest into overtime.

It was UMass (2-0) that would ultimately come away cheering after Steph Gottwals collected a loose ball in front and lifted it into the net, securing a 3-2 victory for the Minutewomen.

“I’m really proud of our crew,” head coach Barb Weinberg said. “They executed the game plan perfectly today and came away out with the win.”

The Minutewomen were aware of the challenge they were facing against Maine (0-2), having played them last year in a game that ended 2-1 in favor of UMass. But having fresh legs running up and down the turf proved to be crucial on Sunday.

“We knew Maine was a strong team, they played really well against Boston College yesterday,” Weinberg said. “On the flip side of that we knew because BC took them into overtime that we had to capitalize on their tired legs with less than a 24-hour turnaround.”

Gottwals came into the afternoon with two goals in two seasons at UMass. She tied that total against the Black Bears with her game winner as well as the game’s opening goal on a penalty corner under three minutes into the first quarter.

“Steph has great hands, she’s able to carry the ball really well into the circle and often draws penalty corners,” Weinberg said of the junior’s breakout performance. “She’s been working on her goal scoring for the past year and a half so that’s the moment where it really pays off. She’s done the work.”

After firing quickly out of the gate, the Minutewomen saw their momentum slowly dissipate as the high energy first quarter became a grinding possession battle in the second. Going into the halftime break, UMass adjusted and refocused.

“We talked a lot on the defensive side about how can put more pressure on in our defensive third and force them to the outside,” Weinberg said. “We were under the pump just before halftime with a lot of penalty corners so we wanted to step outside the circle and actually make the tackle.”

Putting those words into action were a different challenge, but one the Minutewomen were prepared to conquer. Veteran leaders stepped up and pushed the pace, including Georgie McTear, who spun around a Black Bear defender and buried her second of the season late in the third quarter.

“She continues to be an incredible leader,” Weinberg said of McTear. “She’s grown so much over her four years here at UMass and her poise in the attacking third is just phenomenal.”

McTear also became the primary facilitator of the Minutewomen’s offense in overtime. She was set up to shoot nearly every penalty corner, and her last attempted shot of the afternoon found its way to the front of the net where Gottwals waited among the sea of bodies, finding her window to put it home.

“That was the message after the game,” Weinberg said. “It wasn’t the outcome we would’ve liked going into overtime when were up 2-0 at the end of the game, but we did it.”

With their win the Minutewomen improve to 2-0 and will be back on the Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex to take on Vermont on Friday at 3 p.m.

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