The season-long mission finally came to fruition for the Massachusetts field hockey team late Saturday afternoon, as the Minutewomen celebrated their third Atlantic 10 championship in four years, defeating Lock Haven in the A-10 title game by a score of 2-0.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “The entire team worked so hard; they’ve worked hard the entire year and this weekend was no exception. They played some great passing hockey. It’s fantastic to get another title.”
Senior Jaime Bourazeris scored the first half goal in her last A-10 match. The assist went to Makaela Potts, one of the other two graduating seniors, along with Katie Kelly.
“It feels great,” Bourazeris said. “We worked together, got an early goal and kept it together for the rest of the game. [Mine] was just a straight hit and it was kind of off and I just stepped in and got a touch on it. That kind of happened yesterday and I missed it, so I was determined to get it this time.”
The three seniors, along with goalkeeper Alesha Widdall, received the A-10 trophy on behalf of their teammates, hoisting it above their shoulders as they smiled for a group photo. Widdall finished the tournament holding both of her opponents scoreless in over 143 minutes of play. She is now 4-1 in her A-10 tournament career.
“It’s awesome to finally have the Atlantic 10 championship back in our hands,” Kelly said. “Last year was really devastating when we didn’t have it. We [seniors] came in [four years ago] winning the championship, and we wanted to go out leaving with the championship in our hands.”
Freshman Alexa Sikalis added the insurance goal for the Minutewomen in the 64th minute off an assist from Kelly. The score put UMass in complete control with a 2-0 advantage with under 10 minutes to go.
Kelly made her way into the left side of the circle, drawing the defense to her, before finding Sikalis for the shot. The teamwork of Sikalis and Kelly, with both players at opposite ends of their UMass careers, is an example of the synergy Sowry has seen all season with her team.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” Sowry said. “Especially when this team right now is the coaching staff’s team and to have, especially the senior class, in their last year, to come and play some fantastic hockey amongst so many freshmen on the field, it’s a great way for them to go out, but it’s also just fantastic for the future of this program. We have an amazing young team right now, and already I’m looking forward to next year.”
It was freshman Lindsay Bowman who sent UMass to the title game by scoring on a pass from Kelly three minutes and 14 seconds into overtime on Friday against host Temple.
Junior Thando Zono carried the ball into the circle and found Kelly waiting on the left side. Kelly hit a one-time sharp grounder to Bowman, who was positioned perfectly in front of the goal.
“All I remember was I was trying to keep my stick down low and just kept in mind what the coaches told me to do, because I have a habit of coming up off the ball,” Bowman said.
The Minutewomen outshot the Owls, 21-3, never doubting that their pressure would eventually pay off with a score.
“It’s in true UMass spirit that we have a lot of fight, and I just said keep persisting. That’s what we’ve done all year,” Sowry said.
The overtime win was the fourth of the year for UMass in four tries, as the players have grown comfortable playing in such high-pressure situations.
“I wouldn’t say we’re too confident, but we’re definitely composed,” Bourazeris said. “We know what we have to do, and we get a nice flow going and eventually we come out with a win, which is all we know in overtime right now.”
Now the Minutewomen are poised for another quick turnaround, as they continue their season at Garber Field with a match against Stanford on Tuesday at 1pm.
“This is what it’s all about,” Sowry said. “This is to get into the NCAA Tournament, and I know the team is excited. We’re going to be ready and we want as many people as possible to come out and support us.”
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.