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May 8, 2017

Minutewomen face long road trip

Playing four straight games on the road on short rest is tough for any team. Not only is it physically taxing but it also takes a strong mindset to maintain focus and good team chemistry.

The No. 9 Massachusetts field hockey team starts its road swing tomorrow against Harvard (4-4).

UMass (8-3) used only its starters on Saturday against No. 6 Syracuse (11-1) and only three reserves yesterday against Yale (6-4). Injuries are a part of any collegiate sport, and the Minutewomen currently suffer from bumps and bruises that occur during the course of a season.

UMass coach Justine Sowry stresses the importance of rest to her team.

“It’s an insane schedule, and we definitely have players who are battling injuries,” said Sowry. “In terms of playing away, right now it’s just the fatigue factor that we have to take care of.”

Forward Cher King is one of the players who isn’t 100 percent right now. The last time King played with the Minutewomen was on Sept. 20 in a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 10 Boston College (9-2).

The last time UMass had a stretch of five or more road games was the 2006 season – one season before Sowry came into the program. Then the Minutewomen started off the year with eight road games before coming home to play then-No.10 Connecticut. In that stretch, UMass went 2-6, scoring an average of two goals per-game and giving up the same number of goals.

The Minutewomen went 6-14 that season, including a five-game losing streak upon their return from the extended road trip. Lauren Gillespie led UMass with 13 goals without starting any of them. Seven of her goals came within the first eight games and she entered a five-game scoreless slump upon UMass’ return to Amherst.

The Minutewomen are 4-1 away from Garber Field this season, their lone loss on the road coming to the Orange on Saturday.

Prior to the 5-2 loss to Syracuse, sophomore Alesha Widdall allowed one goal on the road this season, and senior Sarah Williams allowed the same total in her time in goal in away games.

Forward Eileen Seffron saw more time this past weekend in the absence of King, scoring the game-winner against the Bulldogs.

Seffron views the road trip in a different light. She believes traveling gives a boost to team cohesiveness and this can only help a UMass team that starts anywhere from two to four freshmen this season.

“Traveling is great on its own. It’s team bonding for us, which is good,” said Seffron. “I feel like with this, we connect better and know how each other work. Everyone’s different, and we learn that, so we use that [to our advantage].”

Learning the tendencies of each player on the team plays an important role in the development of younger players and the production in away games from the freshmen on the team gives Sowry the luxury to rest players such as King.

Two of forward Kara Charochak’s three goals on the season came on the road, and sophomore Christine Cutry’s first goal of the season came at Syracuse.

The younger players can also outlet the ball on the road as well. Midfielder Kim Young’s three assists came in games at Quinnipiac and Syracuse. Young’s assist total leads all freshmen this season.

The increase in skill level of the freshmen this season most certainly means more playing time for the young Minutewomen and the play of veteran reserves is key to UMass’ long-term health this season. The high skill-level of players means nothing if they can’t stay on the field.

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

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