It’s the foundation of the Massachusetts field hockey program: a fierce competitive spirit counterbalanced with a nourishing sense of sisterhood. Jaime Bourazeris embodies this foundation with her ability to harness both opposing mindsets. And to think, Jaime’s four-year career at UMass almost never happened if it weren’t for a crossing of paths.
It was February 2007. The start of the fall season was just a few months away. Jaime, a senior in high school, was playing at a Disney Showcase tournament in Florida. Justine Sowry, the newly hired UMass coach, had only a week on the job and was flying to Florida for her first recruiting tournament. By this time, most other schools already had their freshmen recruits established. But, both Bourazeris and Sowry got a late start in the process and, by happy coincidence, ended up finding each other last minute.
“I remember there were three coaches: the Richmond coach, Syracuse coach and myself. We were all after her,” Sowry said. “[Jaime and I] just connected. The stars lined up perfectly for the connection for us because she was so late in the process, I was so late coming in that it just happened to be the right place at the right time. She didn’t even want to talk to the other coaches. It was something that struck her about me and the program and it was immediate.”
For Jaime, it was the opportunity to be a part of a something imminent. She saw a first-year coach and a program that was committed to redeveloping itself into a winner.
“I felt really comfortable knowing that [Sowry and I] would be growing together,” Bourazeris said. “The previous year’s team stats and records didn’t affect me. It was more of the fact that I wanted to be a part of a team that would grow.”
It was the “why not?” philosophy that drew Bourazeris to field hockey in the first place. A multi-sport athlete growing up, she mostly played soccer until she felt like trying something new. So she turned her attention to field hockey.
“Trying a new sport wasn’t uncommon for me,” Bourazeris said. “I was always curious. That’s what ended up happening with field hockey and I ended up loving it.”
Throughout Jaime’s four years as a Minutewoman, she has grown into one of the leaders of the team, most importantly by example. Her unique example of play is what initially drew Sowry to Jaime. There was a leadership quality in Jaime that the program desperately needed.
“What struck me most about her, she was a standout immediately for her team,” Sowry said. “She definitely was the leader on that team at that time. It was pretty clear to me that I needed someone like that. She was a hard working, blue-collar competitor. We basically had to turn around a program into a winning program. She was going to help us.”
The blue-collar competitor in Jaime is exactly what Sowry is about. Both Bourazeris and Sowry approach field hockey with a sense of grittiness and heart. Their mentality has extended to the approach of the team.
Just this season, even after sweeping through Atlantic 10 play, as well as defeating the No. 4 and 8 teams in the country, the Minutewomen still were on the bubble for the NCAA tournament.
“You always feel like you have to prove yourself,” Sowry said. “It’s never come easy, almost like a chip on the shoulder. You mix that in with the program that’s been building and trying to earn the respect in the hockey community; I think it’s come together quite nicely in her senior year.”
Jaime’s competitiveness dates back to her childhood days of playing street hockey with her older brother, Dean.
“When we would go [outside], I would be the goalie. I put on the pads and him and his friends would just take shots on me. I always enjoyed it. I think that had a lot to do with my competitiveness,” she said.
It also branched from her parents, both of whom were physical education teachers. The family could not even go out and play miniature golf, according to Jaime’s mother, Bernadette Bourazeris, because everyone was so competitive.
Kori Brocking, Jaime’s high school field hockey coach, constantly saw the competitive drive in Jaime.
“She’s a fierce competitor, she did not like to lose,” Brocking said. “That’s what made her so successful. She had a job to do and just did it unbelievably well.”
When Jaime was a freshman, her mother was unsure about if she’d get any playing time that season. But Jaime stepped up and ended up securing the starting right halfback position in game one of her collegiate career. She’s gone on to start every game since, an astounding streak of 89-straight games.
“I was very surprised that she developed the way she did,” Bernadette said. “She has a lot of tenacity and she’s the type of adult that pursues what she wants. If she wants it, she’s going to go for it.”
“When you’ve been a fullback or defender for four years, that really says a lot about you as a leader, a leader of a defense,” Sowry said. “We’ve had probably the stingiest defensive record consistently over four years. She’s been part of it, a big reason for that.”
Jaime credits her work ethic to the team she was surrounded with as a freshman. Three seniors at that time – Kristina DoRosario, Erin O’Brien and Nicole Phelan – helped her with her learning curve.
“They were experienced and it was really great to jump in with them [and] kind of be carried by them,” Bourazeris said.
“They were amazing leaders but they were very nurturing,” Sowry said. “They were the type of defenders that wouldn’t scream and yell. It was more of love and understanding and ‘this is what you need to do,’ very composed.”
Jaime understands the familial bonding that takes place within her team. She sees it unfold in front of her during every game. Throughout each match she can be spotted as the lone player on the defensive half, along with goalkeeper Alesha Widdall, about 20 yards away from anyone else. As her teammates make their push, Bourazeris scopes everything out, knowing in the back of her mind that she’ll have help if she needs it.
“I don’t ever feel like I’m just alone in the back,” Bourazeris said. “When it does come down to the grind, it could come down to just me but there’s always defenders recovering back and I know that. It’s kind of a trust thing that I’m never left alone. Each line is a unit. You trust every line and you trust your unit.”
When Jaime met fellow freshman Makaela Potts, who came from Australia, the two developed a special bond. They’ve been roommates every year since freshman year and have spent each Thanksgiving break with Jaime’s family.
“Being an international student, she’s welcomed me to the team, her and her family,” Potts said. “She’s a very kindhearted person, always looking out for me no matter the situation, whether she disagrees with me or not, she’s definitely always there for me and just a great friend.”
Sowry also sees the team as an extended family. Fittingly, her players see her as the maternal figure.
“We’re like her babies,” Bourazeris said. “We’ve grown from her and with the program.”
As a senior, Jaime is in the same position as her three UMass mentors and she’s seen the impact that it’s had on her.
“Now I can apply that to my senior year, knowing the support I had from my seniors as a freshman, how important it really is to take freshmen under your wing and get them involved in the game.”
Both Jaime and Sowry see freshman Hannah Prince as almost a carbon copy of Jaime four years ago. After all, both started every game at right halfback in their first year at UMass. Prince is now also becoming a key figure in the penalty corner unit, an area where Jaime has excelled in recent years.
“It’s kind of scary, she’s kind of a mini-me of me from my freshman year,” Bourazeris said. “There’s definitely some things she does that I’m like ‘I can’t say anything about that because I would’ve done that my freshman year,’
“I can relate to her. It’s pretty cool to have someone that I almost feel like I’ve experienced what she’s experiencing now.”
“It’s almost identical in terms of how focused and obsessed about field hockey that Jaime was in her freshman year and Hannah, how they learn the game,” Sowry said. “From the moment that they connected, you could tell that Jaime felt like [Hannah] was the little bird under her own wing. What helped Jaime as a freshman, I think Jaime’s tried to impart that on Hannah as well.”
Sowry has seen a full circle mentorship take place with Bourazeris. Now, as a graduating senior, Bourazeris has made a lasting impression with the program.
Along with Potts and Katie Kelly, Sowry calls her three graduating seniors a pivotal threesome that helped turn the program around. It’s been one of the team’s better years as far as collective leadership.
“You become very proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Sowry said.
Brocking has also seen the impact Jaime has had for the New Hyde Park Memorial field hockey team.
“She’s probably one of the most decorated high school field hockey players that have ever come out of New Hyde Park,” Brocking said. “She sets the bar for us at New Hyde Park to kind of get us on the map as well. It worked both ways. She was able to make a mark at UMass and it helped us get on the map in the respects as well.”
The mark that Jaime leaves with these two programs is a result of her steadfast style of play.
“She’s a coach’s dream,” Brocking said. “She’s going to execute whatever goal it is and she’s going to achieve it. That’s just the type of person she is.”
Jaime Bourazeris came to UMass at time when both she and the team were trying to garner a sense of acknowledgment. After falling very late in the recruiting process, Jaime had to prove that she was ready to compete at the next level. She ended up being a staple in a rapidly improving program and never gave Sowry any excuse to take her out of the lineup.
Her competitiveness and unwavering work ethic made her a leader by example for her “extended family”.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.