The Massachusetts field hockey team’s coach Carla Tagliente has been praised for bringing a new, offensive-minded approach to the UMass field hockey program, but what hasn’t been as publicized is the Minutewomen’s new defensive approach.
Jaime Bourazeris, a 2011 UMass graduate and four-year starter for UMass field hockey, is assisting the team this season. The New Hyde Park, N.Y. native started all 23 games of her senior year, ending her career with 50 points and Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team honors.
Roz Ellis, an assistant coach, has been crucial in mentoring the defense this season. Ellis came over from Wake Forest to help Tagliente in her first head coaching job. Ellis attended Iowa, where she led the Hawkeyes to the 2008 Final Four while gaining NCAA All-Tournament Team honors as a defensive player.
“Roz has a great mind for the game and will be tremendous asset for our defense,” said Tagliente of Ellis.
Bourazeris is working in conjunction with Ellis to implement a three-back defense as opposed to the four-back defense the team was accustomed to under former coach Justine Sowry.
“I think it gives us a little bit more ability to attack and get more numbers up on the field. There are a lot of changes that go into it and I think the girls are adjusting well,” said Bourazeris. “Like anything, it takes time, every game they’re getting better with it.”
With the new defensive approach comes a new mindset, which incorporates an offensive attitude. It gives the defense a chance to push the ball up the field, thus creating more shots and scoring opportunities.
“The biggest key as it is with any defensive structure is to communicate and stay organized,” said Bourazeris.
Although the defense has seen a platoon of starters since the season began, the last couple of games have seen a starting line consisting of freshmen and Seaford, England native Lauren Allymohamed, sophomore Hannah Prince, and redshirt junior Callie Sweigart.
“Even though Callie is a redshirt junior, she has been around the practices and the games, she tactically knows the game and the game plan really well,” said Bourazeris.
“I am just serving the team as an extra set of eyes and ears, helping out wherever I can,” said Bourazeris. “Despite the losses, the outcome with shooting in the past couple of games has been a lot better than earlier in the season and last year for that matter.”
Of course it’s hard to talk about the defense for the Minutewomen without mentioning the 2011 A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year and All-American goalkeeper, senior Alesha Widdall, who saved 97 shots last season en route to eight shutouts. The young defensive line feels comfortable with Widdall minding the net.
Matt Strong can be reached at email@example.com.