Minutewomen return to action this weekend

By Matt Brady (Collegian Staff)

When a team is coming off of a 31-8 overall season and a fifth place finish overall in the country, repeating past success, let alone improving, is quite a task to undertake.

This is the situation that the Massachusetts women’s water polo team faces this year, and they begin their task this weekend as they play three matches this weekend in the Princeton Invitational. The Minutewomen face off against Michigan at 1:20 p.m. and Villanova at 7:20 on Saturday, with the weekend’s final contest being held at 1 p.m. on Sunday against UC Santa Cruz.

The Minutewomen, who finished last year ranked fifth in the nation in the National Collegiate Poll, will take on their arduous task with a new captain at the helm of the ship, as last year’s assistant coach Donna Heinel takes over the head coaching position this season. Heinel was previously the assistant swimming coach for the Maroon and White for the three seasons before she joined the water polo team.

‘The intensity has been at a high level during practice,’ Heinel said. ‘Everyone has a shot for a starting role and a chance to develop as players.’

The team returns 12 letter-winners from last year’s team, which turned in its best performance in school history. UMass has a chance to capture its third Eastern Championship in the last four years.

The team lost four seniors from last year’s team, including top two goal scorers Katie Grogan and Claudia Clement. Instead of dwelling on the departures, however, Heinel sees it as an opportunity for other players to step up.

‘With the graduation of the four seniors, it opens up four starting positions, giving everyone a new sense of excitement and increasing the intensity. Everyone has a shot for a starting role and a chance to develop as players.’

The Minutewoman defense is led by junior All-American netminder Dana Sinkwich. Senior Sarah Newell should also be a prime contributor, both as a leader and as one of the top defenders in the East.

The offense should be led by last year’s phenom, sophomore Kelly Chassy, who ended the year third on the team in goals and scoring, tallying 46 goals and 12 assists.

‘I’m extremely excited to start the season so that we can determine what level of play we are at and what we need to improve,’ Heinel said.

Coach Heinel and her troops have a long road in front of them: The road back to the top.