Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Minutewomen keeping the mood light down the stretch

Geoff King/Collegian

The Massachusetts field hockey team stands alone atop the Atlantic 10 with an undefeated 3-0 record and the confidence that it can defeat any school on any given day.

Being the top team in a conference means that every other school is aspiring to beat the Minutewomen, but despite the added pressure of being in first place heading into the second week of A-10 play, the Minutewomen are all smiles.

“There’s usually somebody who is a bit down at practice every now and then,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “But, hey, you’ve got to loosen up at the end of the year. We’ve got a great group of girls and they know what’s at stake. We try to make it fun for them.”

The atmosphere is immediately noticeable just walking past Garber Field. Laughter and smiles radiate from the faces of the Minutewomen where practice is taking place. To an average passer-by, this is not the look of a team in contention for a conference title.

“Sometimes we get caught in a rut of doing the same thing over and over,” Sowry said. “Having good awareness and good leadership on the field is huge. We’re trying to keep them loose in practice every day while still staying tough and not letting up.”

In past practices, Sowry and her coaching staff have given away small team awards meant to both poke fun and acknowledge the hard work each player has put in. In one award in particular, the “Sweep Award”, Sowry hands out a small broom to a player who has successfully utilized the sweep hit for a goal in the previous week’s game. The gesture might seem small, but the effects have been widespread throughout the team and have lightened the mood in the most important part of the team’s season.

“We usually do it every week,” Sowry said. “The girls love it and they give each other a hard time about it if one of them wins something. It’s become pretty popular.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the team has stopped playing, however. Each player still has the responsibility to stay on top of her skills and improve with each passing day, and Sowry still expects perfection.

“I think now we’re building,” Sowry said. “From the games last week, I don’t think we necessarily played our best hockey, but we were able to come out with wins. Wins are great, but we’re still trying to work on our passing patterns and aspects of the game like that. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve also set ourselves up quite nicely.”

Sowry is promoting a balance of working hard while having fun doing it. If the mood of the Minutewomen is any indication, the rest of the A-10 could be in for a long week as the season wraps up.

“We’re very excited for where we are now,” Sowry said. “We know what we need to do to improve, but we’re just taking it one day at a time right now. It should be a lot of fun.”     

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

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