UMass field hockey proves that it can show up at the right time

Minutewomen have scored crucial goals in each of their last two wins

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Thom Kendall/ UMass Athletics

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

In two games so far this season, the Massachusetts field hockey team has proven that goals matter most when they come at the right time. Time management, execution and head coach Barb Weinberg’s’ orchestration put UMass (2-0) over Maine (0-2) in overtime, 3-2 on Sunday.

Junior Steph Gottwals found the back of the net in overtime on Sunday, putting the nail in the coffin of a Maine team that sent what was once a 2-0 UMass lead into extra minutes. Gottwals’ goal sealed the win for the Minutewomen but ultimately was representative of a lot more.

After Maine roared in excitement following its first goal of the game with just over five minutes left, the 2-1 change of score didn’t visibly effect UMass. Positive communication echoed through Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex for the Minutewomen and aggressive energy towards the ball proved that UMass wasn’t letting up too easy.

The physicality of Maine hinted at a late goal, since for the first three quarters shots on goal just couldn’t connect. When a penalty corner gave the Black Bears a chance with 18.2 seconds to tie the game, it wasn’t surprising that they did with just seven seconds left in regulation.

Weinberg didn’t love the idea of being in overtime since her team was riding a 2-1 lead until the final seconds. But the game plan implemented was simple. Weinberg’s strategy late in the game was to keep possession. The challenge came was to see if her team could do it.

“I was anxious as hell to be honest,” Gottswal said.  “I was really nervous, but we prepare a lot for overtime, we play OT probably two times a week so we kind of had the skills we needed to go into it…we were just ready to play.”

Minutewomen sparkplug Georgie McTear had her fair share of ball touches in the extra minutes, with a few shots of goal nearing just inches away from the net. The momentum pushed in UMass’ direction, and it only took just six minutes for a corner to connect.

“That’s the moment where it really pays off,” Weinberg said.

Gottwal stressed that last season fighting back from a one goal deficit was a common problem for the Minutewomen. In the off season, focus was really on coming out hot from the start. In the first two games this fall UMass has drawn first blood. In the short time already, the maturity is showcased by the ability to start and finish on top. Sunday’s win was just a prime example of execution and ball control when it mattered most.

“In overtime, our maturity, our ability to keep possession move the ball, it was just phenomenal so that speaks to our older players and leaders,” Weinberg said.

With all three goals that UMass connected on Sunday, each came at a crucial moment that set the tone for Maine to match. The chance for a corner goal was put in the palm of Minutewomen hands just three minutes into the game. Perfect execution didn’t give the Black Bears much of a chance to stop the ball from finding the goal and giving UMass a 1-0 lead.

When a back-and-forth battle resulted in a scoring drought for both teams, McTear pushed the limits with a wraparound spin cycle of a goal with just under two minutes left in the third, extending the lead to 2-0.

After the season opener, Weinberg highlighted Izzy Acquaviva’s timely goal to push a 3-0 lead. 48 hours later, another two Minutewomen proved that timely goals weren’t just going to be a one-time thing.

“It’s a full team effort every time,” Weinberg said. “We don’t necessarily have one star and different people are contributing to our goals and its fantastic because they each have put the work in to be able to capitalize when the moment is there.”

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