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UMass field hockey advances to NCAA tournament with overtime win

AMHERST — After most of the bounces went against University of Massachusetts field hockey team during its NCAA Play-In game with Rider, a funny carom launched the Minutewomen’s celebration in overtime.

Kim Young’s initial shot off a penalty corner appeared to be heading wide, but it kicked first off of a Bronc defender and then off the right post. The pinball seemed to confuse Rider goalie Joelle Prettyman, who was leaning the wrong way when the rebound dribbled in front of the net.

UMass’ Allie Sabia, Hannah Prince and a Rider defender raced for the free ball as Prettyman tried to dive on it.

Sabia’s stick got there first. She shoved the ball into the open goal to give the Minutewomen a 2-1 overtime win and their 23rd trip to the NCAA tournament.

“In tournament time, the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Play-In game, the NCAA tournament, it’s anyone’s game,” UMass coach Carla Tagliente said. “You could go out and play the 70th ranked team in the country and they’re going to come out and battle you because it’s the tournament. It’s a special time. I’m really thankful to get this far. This teams deserves it. They’ve earned it. They’ve worked hard. I’m just thankful that they have a chance to go to tournament and experience that.”

Sabia didn’t even have time to raise her arms as she was engulfed, first by her teammates nearby and then by the stream of black jackets swarming off the bench.

“I didn’t want our season to end,” Sabia said. “It happened really fast. It’s hard to remember it all.”

The win earned UMass (15-8) a rematch with Syracuse (17-2), Saturday at Penn State at a time to be determined. The winner will play either Penn State or Albany, in the quarterfinals Sunday at 2 p.m. The Minutewomen upset the then No. 1-ranked Orange 2-1 on Oct. 11, which started UMass’ 10-game winning streak.

“I’m not sure anyone wants to play us right now,” Tagliente said before the seeds came out. “We’ve been scoring a ton of goals. We’re really hot. I think we can make a run in the tournament.”

The Minutewomen got some unexpected adversity shortly before the game when all-conference freshman goalie Sam Carlino got sick during warm-ups. Tagliente initially waited to see if her illness would pass quickly, but eventually turned to fellow freshman keeper Sammy Zeiders, who’d never started a game and played just 51 minutes this season.

“We waited, but she just kept getting more sick and more sick,” Tagliente said. “The team reacted pretty well. There’s a lot of support for Sammy Zeiders. They rallied around her.”

Rider scored on the only shot Zeiders faced. Marlaine Schneider fed Sandra Penas in the circle and the junior forward reverse sticked the ball into the far corner of the net and out of Zeiders’ reach for a 1-0 lead.

“That wasn’t necessarily Sammy’s fault,” Tagliente said. “We weren’t marking very well.”

Sabia said the team held its poise despite the deficit.

“We’re so used to coming from behind that in the second half we were like ‘we have 35 more minutes to play,’” Sabia said. “We had it under control. We just had to focus.”

Tagliente agreed.

“We talked about staying in the moment. We couldn’t predict being down 1-0, but staying in the moment came into play here,” Tagliente said. “We just had to play like it was 0-0 and the results will be what they will be and fortunately we came out on top.”

UMass carried the play after that, getting two penalty corners and five shots on Prettyman before halftime but couldn’t get on the scoreboard.

The Minutewomen maintained the pressure into the second half and were rewarded for it with 15:36 left. Nicole Cordeiro redirected Young’s shot from outside past Prettyman to make it 1-1.

UMass earned two more penalty corners before the end of regulation and nearly converted one, but Thando Zono’s shot that beat Prettyman was ruled to high as the game headed to overtime.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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