No. 22 UMass field hockey wants to “protect the Chuk” at all costs

The Minutewomen focus on their own improvement, not the Friars

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Anish G. Roy

Anish Roy/Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

Following a five-game road trip, the Massachusetts field hockey team returns home to face Providence College back at Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex for a non-conference game on Sunday.

After picking up three losses on the road, No. 22 UMass (5-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10) put the focus on reworking, improving, perfecting its game plan, instead of studying the orchestration of Providence.

“Something that we really focused on this season was taking the focus less off our opponents and more on ourselves,” fifth year midfielder Georgie McTear said. “Setting up the press early, doing a high press, getting early shots off goal, baseline runs and really focusing on our penalty corners, that’s what we have been doing this week.”

The Friars (5-4, 1-1 Big East) travel to Amherst coming off a 2-1 win against Georgetown on Friday. The Minutewomen haven’t played since the 3-2 loss against Wake Forest on Sept. 19. History indicates a hard-fought battle to come on Sunday afternoon.

“They are a very well coached team,” head coach Barb Weinberg said. “They are going to be structured, they are going to be disciplined, and we always match up really well against them. It typically has been a one goal score line playing Providence in the past. It’s going to be a tough battle and I think we will match up really well.”

UMass picked up the first loss of the season on the road, with the other two coming in the same road trip. Now after returning home, no matter how hard Providence plays on Sunday, the Minutewomen have an extra edge coming from their motto this season.

“Protect the Chuk.”

When a 3-0 record on home turf began to take up space in the minds of UMass, the desire to continue to remain undefeated only increased. An old motto began to reinvent itself this season.

“That ‘protect the Chuk’ mentality is back this year,” Weinberg said.

Prior to this season, Marlise van Tonder hadn’t had the chance to protect the Chuk since 2019. The concrete wall that sits in goal for the Minutewomen couldn’t participate in the 2020 season. Now, with an undefeated record on her home turf, van Tonder looks to continue to protect her home net.

“Do everything possible to get the [win] when we are at home,” van Tonder said of the “protect the Chuk”mentality.

In order to pull out the win, two mottos must combine. This idea of “us not them,” needs to work in unison with the aggression and competitiveness that comes from the “protect the Chuk” mentality. van Tonder reinforced McTear’s idea that this entire week of practice was about UMass, and that doesn’t change based on the opponent.

“Our main focus is on our structure and our game play,” van Tonder said. “We look at their video, we see what their strengths are, but we try to capitalize on our strengths and see how our game can improve from the previous games.”

Even the little things like having more time for homework, or to have friends watch the games on campus, adds something to a game like Sunday’s.

“Feels so good to be back home,” McTear said. “You can definitely sense a different energy being home…it’snice to have extra training sessions as well to focus and really hone in on some things that we realized while [we were] away.”

The Minutewomen are back at Gladchuk for six out of eight of their next games. Plenty of time for UMass to continue to protect the Chuk.

“This is our home, you can come to our home, but you are going to have a tough day at it,” van Tonder said.

Game time against Providence is 1 p.m. Sunday.

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