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Thando Zono’s memorable weekend leads UMass field hockey to Atlantic 10 title

Her mother has been here since senior day last weekend and Zono made the trek of almost 8,000 miles from their home in Grahamstown, South Africa well worth the trip.

Zono, who had two goals and an assist Friday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals, scored three goals Saturday as the No. 2 seeded Minutewomen hammered top-seeded Richmond 5-0 to capture the conference field hockey championship at Garber Field.

“My team organized for my mom to come over here. It was the first time my mom had seen me play,” said Zono, a senior defender. “There were a lot of emotions going on there … It was great. As a kid you always want to make your parents proud.”

She acknowledged her mom after each goal.

“We do this thing where I score and I point at her,” said Zono. Wishing for “a hat trick, that’s pretty ambitious. I pictured myself doing good things and playing well.”

The 19th-ranked Minutewomen (14-8) will host Northeast Conference champion Rider University in an NCAA Tournament play-in game at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Garber Field. The Broncs (14-5) defeated Monmouth University 3-2 on Saturday.

Zono scored the first goal, 9 minutes, 58 seconds into the game and added another with 2:07 remaining until halftime as UMass avenged a 1-0 loss Oct. 6 at the Spiders.

“With them beating us in the regular season, you have that little bit of doubt in your head,” Zono said. “To win by that much was just playing UMass field hockey so I was pretty happy about that.”

The Minutewomen did not let up as Kate Heineman (two assists) and Kim Young (one assist) scored just under 14 minutes apart to double their lead to 4-0 in the second half.

Zono added an exclamation point with a goal off a penalty corner with 6:15 left.

“She is a special player, big game or small game,” UMass coach Carla Tagliente said. “She’s world class. Her goals are outstanding. She’s hot right now. She’s doing well.

“She’s does as much off the ball as she does on the ball,” Tagliente added. “She’s a great leader on the field. She has so much charisma and energy. The team feeds off of it.”

Zono was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. She was joined by teammates Lauren Allymohamed, Nicole Cordero, Noralie Weusthuis and Sam Carlino on the all-tournament team.

“Richmond (No. 16, 16-5) is a very good team. We just had a lot of momentum and a lot of good things just started to fall into place,” Tagliente said. “We just ran with that. It gives us a lot of positive momentum going into the (NCAA) tournament.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.

Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass.

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