Field Hockey Season Preview
Aug. 24, 2010
AMHERST, Mass. - The 2010 edition of the UMass field hockey team is an interesting combination of an experienced core of returning starters and a large group of athletic newcomers looking to make an immediate impact. The job of turning that combination into the recipe for success falls on fourth-year head coach and two-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, Justine Sowry.
UMass lost three players to graduation: midfielder Cher King, forward Jill Powers, and goalkeeper Sarah Williams, but returns nine of last season's 11 starters, including one senior on each of the lines in defender Jaime Bourazeris, forward Katie Kelly, and 2009 All-American midfielder Makaela Potts. Two-time All-Conference first team goalie Alesha Widdall also returns for her junior season.
Those nine starting spots will not be safe however, as Sowry welcomes 11 new players to this season's squad. A speedy and athletic freshmen class of 10 join junior transfer defender Thando Zono in their first season in Maroon & White.
2009 IN REVIEW
After starting conference play 0-3, UMass needed to win its final three A-10 games to clinch a berth in the conference tournament. The Minutewomen did just that, defeating Saint Louis, La Salle, and West Chester by a combined score of 22-4 to close out the regular season.
In the first round of the A-10 Championship at UMass' Garber Field, the Minutewomen fell to top-seeded Richmond, 2-1 in overtime, in a hard-fought contest.
Behind Widdall will be freshman Kori Huffman. The Brattleboro, Vt. native was named All-State twice.
Two newcomers look like strong contenders join Bourazeris in the backfield. Junior transfer Zono and freshman Hannah Prince have impressed early in preseason camp. Zono is coming off a fine spring season in which she learned Sowry's system. The South Africa native brings vast experience and knowledge of the game. Prince, a speedy and versatile defender has shown poise beyond her years in the preseason.
Other top contenders for backfield spots are junior Christine Cutry and redshirt-sophomore Callie Sweigart. Both saw considerable time in 2009 and have shown steady improvement. Sweigart was named A-10 All-Rookie last year, but is recovering from off-season knee surgery.
Injuries in 2009 provided then-freshmen Elizabeth Karns the opportunity for extensive playing time in which she saw action across all three lines. That experience coupled with another year of seasoning will put her in the mix as a versatile option for Sowry.
Freshman Lauren Hague will provide more depth on the back line. Sowry likes her competitive nature and the athleticism she brings to the field.
2009 proved to be a transition year of sorts for the UMass midfield line with the losses of Erin Parker and Mary Shea to graduation, and with Potts playing substantial minutes at defense. That allowed a pair of then-freshmen, Kate Heineman and Kim Young, to get vast amounts of time and experience. Young finished the season with four goals and five assists and was named A-10 All-Rookie. Both look primed for strong sophomore campaigns contributing to the midfield line.
Nikki Panciocco returns to the midfield mix in 2010 after shifting to a halfback position as a sophomore last season. A consistent performer for Sowry over the last two seasons, Panciocco had three assists in 2009 and that number is expected to increase in her junior season.
Freshman Marisa Dunn is a proven leader and winner at the high school level that provides more athleticism to the midfield.
A pair of sophomores, Kara Charochak and Nicole Cordero, saw plenty of action up front as freshmen in 2009. Each scored three goals in 2009 and has the opportunity to step up and claim more of a role in 2010.
Junior Eileen Seffron saw action in 11 games last season and scored a game-winning goal. She continues to improve steadily and provides speed and quickness to the line.
Several freshmen are also top contenders for not only playing time, but starting positions in 2010. Both speedy and highly skilled players, Mika Black and Alexa Sikalis have both been impressive in the preseason. The pair provides a good complement to Kelly's skills on the front line and also has the ability to play at midfield as well.
Sowry has more in her stable of freshmen forwards. Lindsay Bowman is a speedy and athletic forward from the very successful Palmyra High program in Pennsylvania. Alyssa Ineson is a smart and skilled player from Shrewsbury and was Central Massachusetts' leading scorer last season with 63 points. Molly MacDonnell, from Clifton, Va. is another speedy forward that could fit nicely into Sowry's pressing style. Mel Sutherland comes to UMass from Farnham, England where she gained extensive international experience, including playing tours of Canada, Spain, and South Africa.
Two other opponents (Boston University and Lock Haven) advanced to NCAA play-in games, making it nine out of 19 games that will come against opponents that reached the NCAA post-season last year.
The Minutewomen's schedule also includes eight of the top 20 teams from last season's final NFHCA National Coaches Poll and three others receiving votes.
The beginning of the season will be crucial for the Minutewomen as they measure themselves against top flight competition. UMass opens the season by hosting the UMass Invitational, featuring two perennial powers coached by UMass alums, Boston College (Ainslee Lamb '96) and Indiana (Amy Robertson '88) on Aug. 27-29.
After road games at Northeastern and Boston University, UMass hosts UConn before hitting the road again to face Yale, American, and Maryland, capping off a challenging eight-game stretch to start the year.
Home games against Albany and Syracuse highlight UMass' lead-up to Atlantic 10 play. The Minutewomen open conference play on Oct. 9 against Saint Louis before hosting A-10 newcomer Lock Haven. After a road trip to 2009 A-10 champ Richmond, UMass hosts Temple and Saint Joseph's on the weekend of Oct. 22-24, before closing out the regular season at West Chester and La Salle the following weekend.
The 2010 Atlantic 10 Championship will be held Nov. 5-6 at Temple's Geasey Field in Philadelphia with the winner advancing to an NCAA play-in game.
Defense and goalkeeping will once again be the trademark of the team, but Sowry is looking for the offense to increase its pressure on opposing defenses and goal scoring in field play. The Minutewomen penalty corner units, both offensively and defensively, have proven to be strong and look primed to remain as such in 2010 with many key figures returning. Despite being outcornered, 169-139, in 2009, UMass outscored its opponents, 17-7, off corners.
UMass' four captains, Kelly, Widdall, Bourazeris, and Potts, provide a proven performer, leader, and multi-year starter across each of the lines and in goal. Sowry expects that group to be the core of the team and their leadership across the lines will aid in not only the personal development of the young players, but more importantly the gelling of those groups on the field in becoming one cohesive unit.
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