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UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

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

Winning culture challenged for 2011 Minutewomen

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts softball team is already well into its 2011 season, and as the Minutewomen try to attain to a winning record, the tough early schedule facing the young players is not making matters easier.

 

While Atlantic 10 play has just begun, the defending conference champions have already racked up the travel miles, beginning the year in Florida at the FAU Kickoff Classic. The club then made its way to California and participated in the Cathedral City Classic before returning to the east coast for two tournaments in Georgia and Florida.

So far, the opposition has featured some of the best teams in the country, including six games against top 25 teams.

UMass coach Elaine Sortino knew the non-conference schedule would be stiff this year, enough to challenge the team’s culture of winning.

“Early on in the season, our team would be very challenged, being so young, by great competition,” said Sortino. “But I also think it’s the benchmark for where we want to be at the end. Our culture is we’re used to winning. We had to accept some of these losses. It’s not easy to lose. It just doesn’t go with our psyche. It’s a challenge to stay positive and keep your confidence, particularly as you’re so young and you’re getting kicked in the gut all the time with a loss.”

Seven of the 18 players on this year’s roster are freshmen. However, as each day passes, Sortino sees progress in her young players, with each steadily defining their role and growing more confident. Sortino is convinced that by season’s end, the Minutewomen will compete with the top teams in the country for a national title.

UMass has already exceeded its loss total from last season, however. The schedule also highlights 11 NCAA tournament teams from 2010. However, that exposure is only going to help the club figure out what aspects of the game it needs to improve on, eventually increasing its chances of winning.

“That’s very important because, ultimately, if we want to be a team that’s in the national tournament, we need to know what the national tournament will demand from us,” said Sortino.

Throughout Sortino’s 32 years as the UMass softball coach, she has guided the Minutewomen to 22 A-10 championships and 17-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Last year, UMass went 42-10-1 in the regular season, including an undefeated 17-0-1 mark in conference play. Sortino notched her 1,100th program win when UMass defeated Fordham in the A-10 finals, wrapping up the sixth-consecutive conference championship for the Minutewomen.

This season, Fordham will likely provide the biggest challenge for UMass in the A-10. The Rams were ranked 27 in the preseason national rankings, just one spot behind UMass. Only two regular season meetings are on tap for both teams this season – a two-game series on April 29-30 in Amherst.

The Minutewomen begin their conference season in Charlotte before traveling to Temple and Saint Joseph’s. The longest home stretch will be from April 22 to May 4 as six different opponents visit UMass, including in-state rivals Boston University and Boston College.

Other northeast teams outside of the A-10 that will visit the UMass Softball Complex include Dartmouth, Connecticut, Syracuse and Quinnipiac.

Earlier this season, the Minutewomen faced a Washington club that won the 2009 national title. UMass lost the game, 9-2, surrendering an eight-run third inning. This came after playing California earlier in the same day.

The home opener for the Minutewomen will be a doubleheader versus Dartmouth on Wednesday, March 30.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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