UMass continues to be an overtime team with a 1-0 win over No. 11 Saint Joseph’s on Friday

Steph Gottwals’ second overtime goal of the season puts UMass over the Hawks

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Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

The Massachusetts field hockey team is just an overtime type of team. After a defensive battle through four quarters, No. 21 UMass defeated No. 11 Saint Joseph’s in overtime 1-0 by way of Steph Gottwals’ game winning rocket shot with just 46 seconds remaining.

UMass (10-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) has had its fair share of overtime success stories throughout the 2021 campaign. With the Hawks (10-4, 4-1 A-10) riding a winning streak against the Minutewomen dating back to 2015, the scoreless battle after four had a little edge on it. With physicality never shortcoming on Friday afternoon for either team, whoever sealed the deal first was just hungrier than the other.

Even with a 16-6 shot on goal statistic on the day and a series of corner penalties in the waning minutes of regulation for Saint Joseph’s, Gottwal’s overtime thriller proved that in the most physically demanding games, mental strength carries through.

“I think our team is super confident in overtime,” head coach Barb Weinberg said. “They believe they have the best overtime line up in the entire country, so the confidence is always really high when you go into that.”

Like the stat sheet shows, the Hawks had the dominant hand on the offensive end in the latter half of the day. UMass sneaked in a few corner penalties and shot attempts, but it was the Hawks who seemed to have a goal on the horizon. But no matter how well a Saint Joseph forward could speed dribble the ball with one hand up the sideline, beating every defender, no Hawk was able to get past the last one.

Marlise van Tonder.

Van Tonder had 14 saves on the day, including five in the second half and five more in overtime to send the Hawks home scoreless for the first time the entire season. No goalie had yet to shut out the Hawks in their 2021 season until Friday.

UMass’ rock-solid goalie had every type of dramatic save on the day. Whether it was diving across early in the second quarter or a one-handed miracle save with just minutes to go, nothing phased van Tonder enough to cost her the game.

“A big thing is mental preparation before the game,” van Tonder said. “That is something that we are privileged to have a sports psychologist at the University that is able to work with us and help us to prepare mentally for the game. That to me has been a huge help just to make sure I can fall back on the prep I have done, and we have done as a unit.”

The organized chaos of UMass in extra time is orchestrated mentally. The endurance, physical effort and skill to pull off games like Friday is routinely practiced. Even when the two levels of game are met, an extra push of motivation can do the trick. On Friday, it was Gottwals’ yelling “milk,” as the ball sat at midfield for the start of overtime to bring motivation.

“Emily Crawford drinks a lot of milk for dinner, like every dinner she has a glass of milk,” Gottwals said. “I was just rewarding her with some whole milk tonight…I was just trying to get the team up, our team works so much better when we have more energy and anyone on the sideline saying anything just gets the girls up so whatever helps.”

Until UMass found the back of the net, almost every place that the Minutewomen tried to be, Freke Van Tilburg was already there. The junior was dominant for the Hawks on and at every level. With lethal stick skills and high-speed offense, she managed to sneak through Minutewomen jerseys any chance she got. Anytime UMass tried to create rhythm up the sideline, Van Tilburg disrupted its flow.

“We just talked about keeping the pressure up, turning the game into our game,” Gottwals said. “We were kind of on the back foot for parts of the second quarter and some of the first as well and we tried to turn it around and make it our game.”

Once the Minutewomen intercepted the high-speed transition passes both across the field and up the sideline, the momentum shifted to an equal game. UMass has found its most success when playing proactively on both sides of the ball and No. 11 Saint Joseph was no different than that.

“It was a battle,” Weinberg said. “I think it took us a little bit to get into the game. We talked at every quarter time and half time that we were playing very safe defensively and weren’t taking a lot of risks going forward so that was our mentality going into the fourth quarter…if we are going to win this game we actually have to run through lines and generate more attack.”

With one minute remaining in extra time, sophomore Claire Danahy came crashing into the Saint Joseph’s sideline in hopes of intercepting a ball. Moments later, a picture-perfect reverse shot from a Hawks forward was nearly the game winner. Relentless effort by both teams was just the story of Friday’s conference battle.

14 seconds later, someone finally found the back of the net.

“She has worked really hard on her goal scoring, and it has paid off in critical moments,” Weinberg said of Gottwals’ game winner.

UMass stays home for another conference clash against Richmond on Sunday. Game is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Lulukesin.