Scrolling Headlines:

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Judy Dixon enters final season with UMass tennis with simple message: One match at a time -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball enduring early-season limitation in playing in New England -

February 23, 2017

Minutewomen softball begins season with cross-country travel, string of tournaments -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball looks to bounce back from disappointing 2016 season -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior Hannah Murphy is Angela McMahon’s latest legend in the making -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior defenders accept leadership roles in quest for ninth consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship -

February 23, 2017

Kelsey McGovern rejoins UMass women’s lacrosse as an assistant coach after starring for Minutewomen -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to continue improving throughout 2017 season -

February 23, 2017

Spring Sports Special Issue 2017 -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse defense relying on senior leadership with new faces in starting lineup -

February 23, 2017

UMass softball fills holes left by seniors with freshmen for 2017 -

February 23, 2017

The Hart of the Lineup -

February 23, 2017

UMass softball prepares for a long, busy season in 2017 -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse defenseman Tyler Weeks makes his way back from ACL injury -

February 23, 2017

International rule changes make mark early in season

The Massachusetts field hockey team faces a lot of changes in 2009. Not only do the Minutewomen have numerous freshmen on the team but the International Hockey Federation (FIH) – field hockey’s national governing body – has implemented the new “self-hit rule” in an effort to increase the overall speed of games.

In conjunction with the new rule, free hits inside the 23-meter mark cannot be played directly into the striking circle. This rule was changed to prevent dangerous play from a strong hit towards the cage at close range.

No. 11 UMass (4-1) has already experienced the effects of the rule change. In Game 1 of the UMass Invitational, Boston University (1-5) consistently sped the ball up-field and into the Minutewomen scoring zone and frequently earned penalty corners. The Terriers held a 13-9 advantage in penalty corners, including three in overtime.

This showed a surefire way of getting scoring advantages on an opponent. Current penalty corner leaders in their respective conferences in the three major Division I field hockey conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big 10 and Big East) are also atop conference standings. The same is also true for the Atlantic 10 and America East conferences.

As far as the Minutewomen go, UMass coach Justine Sowry thinks that the new free-hit rule benefits the team by creating more scoring opportunities and forcing players to play a stouter defense.

“I think we’ve gone individual,” Sowry said. “It has to be a total team effort defensively. On the flip side, the new rule is fantastic because more [scoring] opportunities are going to be opening up if you can create the spaces to form the [2-on-1] matchups and attack the circle.”

Leading by example are backs Makaela Potts and Jaime Bourazeris. Along with junior captain Katie Kelly, the two defenders are tied for the team-lead in goals with two. Potts in particular is vital to the new team-dynamic. A former midfielder, Potts made the switch to defense because Sowry valued Potts’ immense knowledge of the game and tenacious defense.

Polar opposites

The Minutewomen have given up 59 penalty corners this season but Sowry doesn’t attribute this to the new rule change. Instead, Sowry feels that the team needs to play smarter defense. The learning curve for some of the younger players on the team doesn’t seem to be affecting their playing time, either.

Against No. 13 James Madison (3-2) Sowry started four freshmen, including forward Kara Charochak, who is the only freshman on the team to record a goal. Fellow forward Kim Young leads all freshmen with six shots, one on goal.

Charochak’s goal came against a nationally-ranked Iowa (1-5) team that pushed UMass even higher up in the rankings. Her score was the first of the game and by all accounts jump-started the Minutewomen offense that looked to rebound after being upset by the Terriers.

While no freshmen start in the backfield, Potts’ transition to defense made space for the younger players to thrive.

While in the backfield, Potts can still be seen directing younger players who seem lost on defensive plays.

Productive backfield

Potts and Bourazeris have certainly seen plenty of scoring opportunities while in the backfield this season. Neither back is afraid to take the ball up-field if they find a break in the defense. Bourazeris’ two goals are one-shy of her goal total of last season while Potts – as she did last season – continues to lead UMass in shots. The luxury of having one defender take the ball up-field while still having another strong defender remaining in the backfield is a luxury that both Sowry and the younger forwards can enjoy.

“Most of their goals are still coming from penalty corners,” Sowry said of the defense. “That essentially hasn’t changed [since last season]. They’re our stroke power in the circle. However with our [younger] players developing, we’re certainly looking for our backfield to overlap and get involved in the front-field attack.”

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@student.umass.edu.

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