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Veteran leadership carrying Minutewomen

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Veteran leadership is something every team depends on, regardless of the sport, and the Massachusetts field hockey team is no different. In fact, the 2010 squad will be relying even more heavily than usual on its veterans to lead the way, because of the 10 new freshmen on the team. As the new players develop, there will be increased responsibility and pressure on the shoulders of the three seniors, Katie Kelly, Makaela Potts and Jaime Bourazeris.

Kelly, a senior forward from Dedham, Mass. is probably the most experienced of the Minutewomen, and unquestionably the leader of the team. She provides power and physical toughness on the front line and she has a knack for finding the back of the net. All things aside, Kelly attributes her success to playing against the best and learning from her mistakes.

“The main thing is experience,” Kelly said. “Being in pressure situations and learning how to deal with those has definitely helped me this year. Last year we didn’t have many upperclassmen and this year we still don’t, but the three of us plus Alesha [Widdall] have really learned how to work well under pressure and that’s what’s going to be key for us this year.”

As in previous seasons, Kelly has taken on the task of providing the scoring for the Minutewomen, and is off to a quick start. In six games this season, Kelly already recorded five goals, including two against Yale on Sunday.

Potts is a 5-foot-7 inch senior midfielder from Sydney, Australia and is the leader and quarterback of the offense at the center of the field. Potts is a two-time All-American at her position, and has been a captain since her sophomore season. Having come to UMass from Australia, she brought with her special skills that come from her international background. Although she is a talented player, often times her leadership contributions come in areas that are not quantifiable.

Trailing Yale 2-0, Potts took charge of the team and directed successful scoring drives, culminating in goals from Kelly. Sowry acknowledged not only Potts’ determination, but the play and leadership from all her seniors after the game.

“In the second half, Kelly and Potts were the driving force when we were attacking,” Sowry said. “Then we were held up strong at the other end by Widdall and Bourazeris.”

Bourazeris is the last of the seniors. The defenseman is from New Hyde Park, N.Y, and someone who Sowry calls a “ball hawk”. Regardless of where the opposing team is attacking, Bourazeris always seems to be there or nearby. Consistently directing and coordinating her defensive line, she displays skills of a quality defenseman and true leader.

Bourazeris also directs the penalty corners for the Minutewomen, something every team needs to be successful. In three seasons she has 10 goals and 12 assists. This season, she already has a goal and an assist.

Although there are three seniors this season, the team and all its coaches talk as if there are four. That fourth player is junior goalkeeper Alesha Widdall from Whitney Point, N.Y.

Widdall is a special case, and although she is not a senior, she has just as much, if not more experience than the other three. She is the only UMass player to have ever played on the United States Junior National Team, and is coming off back-to-back All-Conference nominations and All-American honors in 2008. Sowry says that her experience makes her a better goalie as well as a better leader on the field, and that the entire team benefits from her leadership.

“Alesha is outstanding,” Sowry said. “With a quality goalkeeper back there we can play more aggressive, and having Alesha back there really gives the team great confidence.”

Leadership is unquestionably an essential component to any team, especially if they want to compete. While UMass has three experienced seniors on the roster, it has four leaders who are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better.

Michael Wood can be reached at mcwood@student.umass.edu.

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