Second half spark propels UMass field hockey to a 3-1 win on Friday

A sloppy and gritty win gives the Minutewomen its third straight at home

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Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

A gritty and ugly 60 minutes of play, but the Massachusetts field hockey team put another game in the win column after defeating Vermont, 3-1 on Friday.

With a scoring drought plaguing both teams, junior Emilie Keij swapped her facilitator role in the midfield for a scorer with a reverse shot off a rebound to go up 3-1 with less five minutes to play. UVM (1-2) goalie Sierra Espeland allowed for minimal second chance shot attempts for the majority of the game but wasn’t able to stop Keij’s shot in the scramble of sticks looking to seal the game.

“It felt really good,” Keij said of her goal. “I saw the ball and I just went for it, it was my reverse so not the best choice, but it went in.”

Unlike the opening two games of the season, UMass (3-0) found itself watching the opponent draw first blood. Having no choice but to bounce back, the Minutewomen knocked in two quick goals in the first half but needed the third to finish out the evenly paced game.

“So nice,” head coach Barb Weinberg said of the final goal. “The score line when its 2-1 to make it 3-1 just gives you that little bit of security and breath that you need at the end of the game.”

The Catamounts didn’t just start off the game strong, UMass had to deal with a physical and determined team for all four quarters. Clodagh Ferry got UVM going just under three minutes into the opening quarter and UVM’s defense prevented the Minutewomen from scoring for the middle two quarters.

For most of the game, both teams were energetic yet sloppy. UMass notably had its share of missed passes and calls to start, and the Catamounts failed to convert on multiple shot attempts. Late in the third, UVM’s Maddy Moran deflected a shot that narrowly missed the goal, failing to convert a would-be tying goal. Espeland had herself nine saves on the day but needed Vermont’s offense to provide more on the other end to pull out the win.

The Minutewomen were able to overcome the sloppiness with a refocus and regrouping after quarter one and eventually found the back of the net.

“We got off to a slow start, it just kind of felt like our first touch was a bit off and we weren’t really stringing a lot of passes together and we talked about that at the first quarter time,” Weinberg said.

Most of the UMass sloppiness was a matter of trying to do too much. When UVM came out strong, the Minutewomen brought the wrong type of playing style to try to stop them which was the center focus of the first quarter conversation.

“Really just trying to do the simple,” Weinberg said. “We were trying to force the ball through the middle a lot in the first quarter so being able to play in the pocket and go around the outside just to play simple hockey really.”

Simple play didn’t necessarily translate to a simple goal however. UMass’ second of the day came from a tic tac toe goal on a corner penalty. Bella Ianni gathered the insert pass and took a hard shot from the top of the circle. Initially Espeland had the save but Ianni then got her own rebound and hit a backhand into the back of the net with a few minutes left in the first.

UMass picked up the energy from the landmark of Ianni’s goal but still failed at cleaning up other aspects of play. UVM made it difficult to feel comfortable at any moment, with a continuous knocking at the Minutewomen’s door, but ultimately failing to even it out before UMass closed the game.

“It was a gritty win, it wasn’t pretty, I don’t think we ever strung five passes together but to come out with a win in that situation is huge because that is a lot of what our conference games are going to look like,” Weinberg said.

The Minutewomen take a road trip after the opening three games were played in Amherst and don’t return back to Gladchuk Field Hockey Complex until late September.

“Protect ‘the Chuk’ has been a part of our history and we talk about that, protecting our home turf,” Weinberg said. “The interesting part is that our team tends to do quite well on the road, I think because it is more structured…I think they are excited to switch it up a little bit and we just have to keep them fresh through five away games now.”

UMass looks to take its undefeated energy to Albany, New York on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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