UMass defense steps up in 2-0 win over Providence on Sunday 

Minutewomen pull out all the stops to prevent a game tying goal

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

The Massachusetts field hockey team put on a defensive clinic Sunday afternoon, only allowing a single shot on goal in the 2-0 win over Providence.

Coming into Sunday’s campaign, the Minutewomen knew that the Friars have a very similar play style to theirs. In order to close the tight gap and edge out Providence (5-5, 1-1 Big East), NO. 22 UMass (6-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10) had to tighten up its game plan and focus on improvements from this past week.

A main area of improvement that UMass was looking to fix was connecting on penalty corners. With the penalty corners coming together early, the 1-0 lead that the Minutewomen were riding most of the game put even more pressure on the back end of the field. Marlise van Tonder is a consistent force in goal for UMass but with the speed of Providence, a slight shift to save an initial shot puts her out of position.

In the opening seconds of the third quarter, van Tonder found herself out of position as the Friars were looking to punch in an equalizer. With sticks jabbing away at the ball nearing the goal line, Josie Rossbach swooped across to clear out the ball and take away the game tying goal.

“It’s a collective effort,” Rossbach said. “Everyone is playing offense, everyone is playing defense. Yes, we were up 1-0 but we all were defending, and we all were playing intact.”

In the first quarter, not much happened on the offensive end for either team. Providence continuously saw the ball pass out of bounds instead of up the field, and UMass didn’t seem to connect a string of passes together for a shot off either. The Friars started the game like they did in the third quarter, with what looked like a goal scoring opportunity that was stopped by a Minutewomen defender clearing away the ball.

Once UMass connected enough to find an offensive rhythm, the game plan on defense had to adjust.

“As the game goes on and it’s only a one goal lead, you have to stay really discipline in your defense so that was our message,” UMass coach Barb Weinberg said. “We have to be really secure with ball possession and very secure on defense.”

The pressure that the Minutewomen put on Providence came in the second half. In the third quarter, UMass had numerous shots on goal with penalty corners. With the ball staying mainly towards the deep end of the Friars’ goal, it was crucial that the Minutewomen defenders didn’t let a forward sneak through for an easy breakaway opportunity.

“I thought we stepped up really well,” Weinberg said. “We ran a full press against them, so it’s really important that every line is stepping up and trying to make the intercept when you are running a press like that. Our back field particularly with the lone balls coming through they were able to step up and start our counterattack.”

For the closing half, the ball was mostly played to UMass’ advantage. Any opportunity for momentum to shift in the Friars’ direction was stopped at midfield by Minutewomen defenders.

UMass had a battle within itself with two yellow cards coming in the first few minutes of the third quarter. Defense held down the fort despite the disadvantage and gave Providence zero penalty corner opportunities throughout.

“It’s awesome,” Weinberg said of her team’s ability to go all out to prevent a goal. “Not only from a goal keepers’ perspective but our team overall…it’s really a team contribution. All over the field they are helping each other out and having each other’s backs.”

UMass finished the day with a 16-3 shot ratio and 9-0 in penalty corners, a testament to the defense just as much as offense.

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