Freshman contributing, help Minutewomen crack Top 10

By Mike Gillmeister

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FhockAThe loss of any one offensive threat can often be overcome by a complete team effort. The Massachusetts field hockey team has tried to do just that after losing Mary Shea, Erin Parker and the Minutewomen’s leading scorer in 2008, Katelyn Orlando to graduation.

UMass (5-2) leads the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 0.84 scoring margin against opponents this season and a team total of 14 penalty corner goals – half of the team’s total goals.

This shows that the Minutewomen know how to get into an opponent’s striking circle and catch unprepared defenses off-guard.

UMass coach Justine Sowry elects to use either defender Makaela Potts or forward Cher King in penalty situations, and both are productive in that role. Potts has three goals this season – two off penalty corners, including the game-winning goal against No. 14 James Madison (4-3). Two of King’s team-leading three assists this season were on Potts’ corner goals. King’s lone goal came in the Minutewomen’s 4-3 upset of then-No. 9 Iowa (1-5). Her unselfish and tactical play is what Sowry feels makes her such a formidable opponent.

“She has a great sense of the game and terrific possession skills,” said Sowry of King.

King also has the only defensive save recorded by a Minutewoman.

While the UMass offense is potent, so, too, is its defense, led slots online spielen by All-American goalkeeper Alesha Widdall.

The total penalty corners forced against the Minutewomen so far this season is 78, and opponents put pressure on Widdall more so in the second half.

 But as opposing pressure rises, so does Widdall’s defensive prowess.

She’s seen 64 shots after halftime, and her 0.818 save-percentage ranks seventh in the nation. Her 1.11 goals-against average is first in the A-10 and third in the Northeast Region behind Christine Hoffman (0.29) and Kristi Troch 0.57 of Albany (5-2). Widdall also leads the A-10 in shutouts (7), and as a team, UMass boasts a conference-low eight goals per-game.

Freshmen continue to impress

Sowry’s recruiting class for this season is paying major dividends. Forwards Nicole Cordero and Kara Charochak already have one goal this season; Charochak scored against the Hawkeyes and Cordero scored against Boston College. The goals show the talent of both players, as both of them came against teams ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Cordero is a regular starter for the Minutewomen and is a fierce competitor on the forward line. Along with King, her possession skills give the forward line a similar look to last year’s Orlando-led forwards.

Charochak is frequently the first player Sowry uses off the bench, and her six shots are second-most among all freshmen behind fellow forward Kim Young. Young is off to a slow start this season, but her selection to Junior National Camp this past summer along with her early enrollment at UMass shows why she is so highly regarded by Sowry for both her intelligence and dedication to the sport.

Midfield Kate Heineman recorded her first point of the season with an assist on Cordero’s goal against the Eagles.

Climbing higher

The Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll placed UMass at No. 10, the program’s first top 10 ranking since 2000, when it reached No. 7. The Minutewomen knocked off then-No. 7 UConn that season – who UMass plays on Oct. 9 this season – to earn the ranking

The Minutewomen are 3-1 against ranked opponents this season and the loss this past weekend against No. 9 Boston College (7-1) came down to an overtime goal that gave a strong offensive Eagles team its second goal. Widdall held the nation’s leading-scorer, BC’s Chelsea Feole, to one goal that proved to be the game-winner.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected]