UMass field hockey is spreading the love offensively in first three games

Offensive contributions have come from all over the field in UMass’ first three games of the season.

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Anish Roy/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

The summer separating the Massachusetts field hockey team’s 2020-21 season from this year’s campaign was shorter than ever, but the break came with an opportunity to focus on offensive success, and the Minutewomen took advantage.

UMass (3-0) has scored three goals in each game this season. Equally as impressive as the volume of goals early is the volume of goal scorers. The Minutewomen are not relying on one or two playmakers, but instead using their core veterans to create chances for their teammates.

Junior Emilie Keij sealed Friday’s win over Vermont (1-2) by scoring her first career goal for UMass with under five minutes left in the game. Keij is one of three Minutewomen to score their first career goal this season.

Earlier in the game, freshman Emilie Marchio netted her own first goal by getting to the front of the net and collecting a loose ball. The fearlessness to attack the front of the cage has paid off for UMass’ goal scoring abilities. Shots don’t have to travel cleanly from the top of the circle into the net as long as a Minutewoman is in position for a redirect opportunity.

“We worked really hard on it in preseason,” Keij said of the goalscoring improvements. “And I think everybody contributed to it, a lot of different people scored the goals … we had a hard time scoring [in the past] so it’s good that everybody’s getting there now.”

In the shortened spring season UMass struggled to find consistent goal scoring outside of Georgie McTear and Jess Beech, who combined for 13 of the 24 goals registered by the Minutewomen in those 11 games.

This summer’s preparation quickly turned UMass into an offense that scores by committee, with eight different goal scorers already to account for nine goals. Beech and McTear have remained active offensively and are the primary targets on penalty corners, but dividing the workload through three games has allowed the entire offensive unit to thrive.

“It’s been a total team effort,” head coach Barb Weinberg said of the offensive production this year. “We struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in the spring so it’s been our huge focus going into the season and really from all over the field people are contributing.”

Amalie Green has stepped into the role of facilitator in the offensive third for the Minutewomen. The graduate student is in just her second year with the program but leads UMass in assists with four to start the season.

There is still a lot of work to do in the offensive end. Ball movement and possession are two areas where the Minutewomen still have yet to find their groove.

“I don’t think we ever strung five possession passes together,” Weinberg said of her team’s performance on Friday.

But when the ball is in the circle, UMass shows its grit. Players all over the field swarm to the ball on penalty corners, rebound opportunities and centering passes. Sticks are always down and ready, awaiting the chance to tuck one in on the far post or redirect a shot past a goalkeeper.

So far this season, the Minutewomen’s will to score and will to win have not been matched.

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