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Field hockey secures America East tournament berth with 7-2 win over Vermont

Junior midfielder Katie Luchino (2) had a goal and an assist in the win against Vermont. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)

Kathryn Leeber
Connector Staff

Despite a cold and rainy night, the River Hawks scored six unanswered goals and came out with a huge win against the Vermont Catamounts.

Going into the game, the River Hawks were 7-9 overall, and 2-4 in America East play. UMass Lowell went into the game with the knowledge that if they won this game, they would secure their first-ever spot in the America East tournament and postseason appearance since becoming a Division I program.

Vermont was 7-10 overall and 0-6 in America East play. The last time these two teams met, the River Hawks won 3-2. They were able to build on that confidence for this game, even with a strong start from Vermont.

The Catamounts had the first goal 1:38 into the game. Sophomore Lauren Tucker scored off a direct corner shot with assists from Olivia Hurd and Rachael Picchi.

Six minutes later after a few failed penalty corners, UMass Lowell’s Christa Doiron was able to score with an assist from Anouk Lalande. This was her 11th goal of the season, making her the leading scorer for the River Hawks.

The cool weather did not seem to slow down either team. Opening strong, Vermont won the ball to start the game. They had a few shots but could not score. The Catamounts did not have strong passes, shooting the ball out of bounds quite a few times. Both teams had many corner penalty opportunities with some leading to goals.

The game went back and forth for a bit, with strong defense from the River Hawks. After UMass Lowell’s goal, Vermont tried to step up their pressure and showed aggressive advances through the River Hawk’s defense.

This led to many corner opportunities for Vermont. Tucker was able to score again off a corner with assists from Hurd and Picchi. Following this goal, the River Hawks looked to increase their pressure and the back and forth play continued.

UMass Lowell’s passing was weak at times. There were a few turnovers in the first half, but despite this, the River Hawks were able to score again. Anouk Lalande scored her ninth goal of the season in the 26th minute with an assist from Katie Luchino.

Neither team had a clear advantage in this first half and after the goals were scored, both teams settled down. There were only a few substitutes on both sides, neither team wanting to disturb the momentum of their respective side. Similarly, even with many corner penalties, there were no penalty cards handed out.

The game was tied 2-2 going into the second half, but both teams were slow to warm up. UMass Lowell was not moving or passing very much, leading to a few turnovers. Despite this, the River Hawks held nearly all of the possession in the second half.

When they did warm up, they were unstoppable. “I thought we played the best field hockey game we’ve played all year,” said head coach Shannon Hlebichuk.

The River Hawks scored five more goals, with two from Kristin Aveni. A lot of scoring opportunities came from UMass Lowell pushing the ball forward after gaining possession and barreling past Vermont’s defense. The Catamount’s defense was very weak in this half, and although they did have some good attempts to stop the shots, the River Hawks were able to find the open spots.

UMass Lowell had an overwhelming number of shots with 23 in total, compared to Vermont’s nine. River Hawk’s goaltender Kelsey Federico had four saves while Vermont’s had eight. Even with a high number of stops, Vermont was not able to prevent the shots from Lowell in the second half.

It may have been a slow start for the River Hawks, but the team came out strong in the second half. Hlebichuk said, “We stayed composed and we know we are capable of scoring goals and that’s what we came out and did.”

The win secured the River Hawks a spot in the America East tournament for the first time. This year’s tournament will be held in Stockton, Calif. UMass Lowell takes on Albany on Sunday for their last regular season game, and then will head into postseason play.

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