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May 8, 2017

Sowry Minutewomen finding success on the road

Winning games at home is only half the battle, road games are what can make or break a team’s season.

As the No. 9 ranked team in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll, the Massachusetts field hockey team has proven just how well it can perform away from home this season.

Through the first nine games, the Minutewomen have played five in Amherst, one in a neutral setting, and three on the road. While holding a 7-2 overall record, they are undefeated with three wins away from home so far.

Despite their success, coach Justine Sowry explained that playing well on the road has not been a voiced point of emphasis for the team.

“Whether we play home or away, we try not to consider it a factor,” Sowry said. “We set our goals for the game and try to achieve them as a team.”

The Minutewomen have recently played better on the road beginning last year when the team went 6-2 in the regular season. The season prior to that, the team only won five of its eleven road games.

UMass will need to continue to play well when it travels with six of the next eight games all being away from home. To begin the road stretch, the Minutewomen will have another challenging opponent this weekend when they head to New York to face No. 6 Syracuse (9-1).

While UMass has played and done well against ranked opponents this season, it has yet to face one on the road. The Minutewomen were fortunate to have played previously top 20 ranked teams Providence (3-6) and Iowa (3-5) at home where both the crowd and field were to their advantage.

“It’s great playing at home because of the support and certainly on this surface, we play some really nice hockey,” Sowry said. “When we go away, we have to make some adjustments with the surface we play on. We haven’t had any trouble with various surfaces we’ve played on though.”

In their three wins on the road, the Minutewomen have shown the ability to flex the muscles of their strong defense as well as strike quickly on offense.

Sophomore goalkeeper Alesha Widdall, who’s performed well all season, has been able to stop opposing teams’ attacks on the road. She recorded a shutout in a 1-0 win against Albany and has allowed no more than a single goal in each of the other two victories against Vermont and Quinnipiac.

On the other side of the ball, junior captain Katie Kelly has been the sparkplug for the offense, leading the team in scoring on the road and for the season. Four of Kelly’s six goals have come away from home with two being the eventual game-winning scores.

The veterans have expectedly played well but it’s the younger players who have surprised and been unfazed by playing on opposing fields. Freshman Kara Charochak has come into a prominent role as of late, scoring two of her three goals in the last two road games. In its last game, UMass had three freshman players contribute with scores in a 7-1 smashing of Quinnipiac. Along with Charochak, Kate Heineman and Nicole Cordero tallied a score, their first and second career goals, respectively.

“We’re coming together at the right time and overall, I’m pleased with how the experienced players have played and how the incoming freshmen have contributed.”

The ability to bring your best game on an oppositions’ field is valuable, and that’s what the Minutewomen have been able to do so far. With the schedule showing more away games, UMass will look to continue its success on the road as it delves into Atlantic 10 Conference play in the next few weeks.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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