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King, Kelly, Young lead Minutewomen in must-win weekend

fhockBIn the most crucial weekend of the 2009 season, the Massachusetts field hockey team received big scoring games from three of its best players to continue its season.

After allowing six goals in a row in the loss against Dartmouth last Wednesday, the No. 19 Minutewomen (12-8, 3-3 Atlantic 10) entered the weekend needing to win out to reach the A-10 Tournament. In order to do so, UMass had to get past conference opponents La Salle and West Chester.

Not wanting their season to end, Cher King, Kim Young, and Katie Kelly provided multi-scoring games to earn victories and a berth in the conference championships .

On Friday, King recorded a career-high four goals, providing all the firepower UMass would need in a 6-3 win over the Explores (7-12, 2-4 A-10). The four scores were the most by a Minutewomen since Erica Johnston put up four in an 8-1 win against California at Garber Field back on Sept. 6, 1997. On Sunday, King would add another score to give her five goals in two games.

King has played 14 games this season and missed six due to injury. However, with the team’s fate hanging in the balance, there was no way she was going to miss this weekend’s games.

“It’s one game at a time for me right now,” King said after Friday’s win. “It was good to get out there and good to get the win. The goals were a plus, but we got the win so that’s all that matters.”

UMass coach Justine Sowry was pleased to have King back and performing well after a stretch of games where the offense struggled.

“It’s great to have her back on the field. She just has wonderful hand-eye coordination and she knows where the goalie is,” Sowry said. “It’s something that the team needed and I’m sure it was greatly needed for her own confidence as well.”

The scoring didn’t end against La Salle as the Minutewomen continued their momentum into Sunday’s victory, compiling six goals en route to 6-0 shutout over West Chester.

Kelly followed up King’s performance by scoring three goals of her own, giving UMass two hat tricks on the weekend after having none since Kelly’s in the A-10 semifinals last year. The junior captain stepped up and had her best game of the season, scoring her team-leading ninth, 10th, and 11th goals, when UMass needed it most.

“She’s an incredibly tough, motivated competitor. What she brings everyday is inspiring,” Sowry said after Sunday’s win. “She’s feels a lot of responsibility if our team performance drops off so we’ve tried to get her relaxed in the last week. She’s just been a fantastic captain and I’m very happy for her.”

Not to be outdone, Young had three goals of her own over the weekend and combined with King and Kelly to score 11 of UMass’ 12 goals.

“It was good that people were able to step up,” Kelly said. “It’s good knowing we have the support from them and they’re back in the game.”

To kick off Sunday’s game, the freshman wasted little time, attacking the Golden Rams’ defense with the dribble to score in the first 15 seconds of the game.

Young has become a vital contributor of the Minutewomen offense, scoring all four of her goals for the season towards the end of the year.

“She’s starting to find some confidence,” Sowry said.

 Along with fellow freshmen Nicole Cordero, Kara Charochack and Kate Heineman, Young provides youthful spirit to the UMass attack.

Heading into the A-10 tournament, the Minutewomen are playing some of their best field hockey of the season. Sowry felt relieved, yet confident at the same time after Sunday’s win, sensing that things were ideally coming together.

“All the cards are falling into place for us at the right time,” Sowry said.

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

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