UMass field hockey remains undefeated with 2-1 win over Albany

Minutewomen continue to grind out games and outlast opposition

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Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts field hockey team kicked off its five-game road trip with a 2-1 win over Albany on Sunday, keeping its undefeated start to the 2021 season intact.

Similar to how it has played all season, UMass (4-0) didn’t play a clean game of possessions, but was unrelenting on both sides of the ball. Players pushed the cage to try and capitalize on second and third chances up front, with players not typically known for their goalscoring converting on chances when the ball was in front of them.

“It was a real physical battle,” Head Coach Barb Weinberg said after the game. “Their individual defense and their ability to tackle is something we haven’t seen so far this season, and for us to later in the game match that physicality and come out with the win, I’m really happy with that performance.”

After falling behind early on the scoreboard, the Minutewomen returned fire when Mus Defauwes found an opening in front to score her first goal of the season.

Late in the third quarter, after intense battles within the circle on back-to-back offensive possessions, Sophie Johnson finally broke through the pile and netted her first of the season, giving UMass a 2-1 lead that it would hold for the rest of the game and bringing the number of different Minutewomen goal scorers through four games up to 10.

“We’ve got a lot of people contributing,” Weinberg said. “I think it speaks to our training environment and what we’ve been able to do there which is including everyone in our goalscoring.”

UMass goalkeeper Marlise van Tonder continued to provide a steady force in net on Sunday, stopping seven shots by Albany (2-2) and only allowing one goal. She has only given up a total of four goals in her four starts this season.

“In her time training with South Africa she’s definitely matured as a goaltender,” Weinberg said of van Tonder. “She is very composed, very professional, reads the game really well and is able to make simple saves but also to come up huge in moments too.”

The defense in front of van Tonder also played a crucial role for the Minutewomen on Sunday. The Josie Rossbach-led group swarmed to the ball every time it entered the circle, blocking shots all afternoon and combining with van Tonder to stop all eight corner attempts by the Greyhounds.

“Really pleased with our defensive corner unit,” Weinberg said of the group. “We gave up a lot of penalty corners today and that unit held tight, and they take a lot of pride in that, going into each one with the mindset that we’re going to deny it.”

Four games in, an identity is starting to form for UMass in 2021. Stick skills are important, but hard work and the will to win have carried the Minutewomen to their 4-0 start — the hottest start to a season since 2013.

That said, there are still areas to improve for UMass, specifically with ball possession in the midfield and attacking zones. The Minutewomen have struggled with clean entries into the circle, relying on penalty corners and scrums to generate most of their offense. More possession success will provide another dimension in an already potent attack.

“We’re getting the results, but we still have a lot we need to work on,” Weinberg said.

UMass will look to extend its win streak to five on Friday when it takes on No. 9 Maryland at 4 p.m. in the second leg of its road trip.

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