The Massachusetts field hockey team’s game on Friday will feature plenty of pressure. Not only are the Minutewomen playing Richmond for the conference title and the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, but the four seniors will play their final game at Garber Field.
The UMass seniors include Christine Cutry and Amanda Dietz on defense, Nikki Pancioccio at midfield and All-American goalie Alesha Widdall. Each of these players has seen two Atlantic 10 tournament championships and is playing for a third in the final season of their collegiate careers.
“I think this group of seniors is just very resilient, take everything in stride and just always keep competing and understand that nothing comes easy and they have to work for it,” said UMass coach Carla Tagliente.
Widdall is considered by many as the best goalie in Minutewomen program history. She has been the consistent starter for UMass since her freshman year in 2008, starting 76 of 79 games. She holds a number of honors at UMass, making the Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team three years in a row, All-Academic Team the last two years and the Longstreth/NFHCA All-Northeast Region First Team the last three seasons. As a freshman she was named A-10 Co-Rookie of the Year and a Second Team All-American. As a junior, Widdall was named the A-10 Student Athlete of the Year and as well as Third Team All-American.
Widdall currently has 25 shutouts on 377 saves in her career. She holds a collegiate record of 47-30 including 15 straight wins against A-10 opponents. Widdall has averaged 1.37 goals against per game throughout her career and has a .777 save percentage. In 2009, she played with the Team USA Junior National Squad at the Junior World Cup in Boston.
“She has done such a great job throughout her career and has really left a great legacy and impacted this program in a positive way,” said Tagliente. “She epitomizes what a coach wants in a leader and she makes everyone around her better.”
At midfield, UMass will be losing Pancioccio, who has sported No. 20 throughout her career.
Pancioccio hails from Walpole, Mass., and has played consistently since her freshman year, in which she made 18 starts. Despite recording no points her freshman season, she made the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.
As a sophomore she had three assists, as a junior eight assists and as a senior she has recorded three goals and two assists. In total, Pancioccio has amassed 19 points in her collegiate career, including two game-winning goals.
“Nikki is such a fiery competitor, she’s always involved and mixes it up and is always motivated and has the desire to win which really helps push the rest of the team,” said Tagliente.
The defensive squad is graduating two seniors in Cutry and Dietz. Cutry has 13 points in her career at UMass. As a freshman she played in five games, but saw an increased role her sophomore and junior year, playing in at least 20 games in both. As a sophomore she netted one goal and helped with two assists before adding two assists her junior year. This year, Cutry has a career-high seven points on two goals and three assists.
“Christine is kind of the quiet unsung hero,” said Tagliente. “She’s always steady and consistent in every game and practice and I think she is a really good role model.”
Dietz, from Lehighton, Penn. wears number 18. As a freshman she played in four games with her first career start coming against Quinnipiac on Aug. 31 2008. Dietz was sidelined her sophomore season due to injury, but returned her junior year playing in three games. This season she played against Saint Joseph’s in which UMass won, 7-0.
Friday’s game at Garber Field gets underway at 1 p.m. Fans are encouraged to attend to support not only the seniors but the entire team in their quest for a second-straight regular season A-10 conference title. UMass will finish out the regular season on Sunday against Providence before A-10 tournament begins.
Michael Counos can be reached at email@example.com.