Tough schedule continues for Minutewomen

By Michael Wood

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts field hockey team will hit the road this weekend, looking to build off consecutive wins against Yale and Connecticut as it takes on two more nationally-ranked teams.

The first matchup of the weekend occurs on Saturday and features the No. 20 Minutewomen facing off against No. 18 American. Given the rankings, one would assume the squads would be evenly matched. Yet, the major difference between the two is that the Eagles are still searching for their identity, while UMass has a pretty good idea of what type of team it is.

They may be young, but the Minutewomen know they have solid leadership from their core three seniors, and stellar play behind them in their goalkeeper, Alesha Widdall. As has become customary, UMass will rely on its tough defensive line to stave off attacks from their opponent, while trying to assault the net at the opposite end with shots from team captain Katie Kelly.

In addition, several freshmen have already stepped up on the offense, namely Lindsay Bowman, who has two clutch goals on the year.

The Eagles (3-2) enter the game with a higher ranking than the Maroon and White, yet by looking at their schedule it is easy to see they are a team in search of their identity.

They manhandled defending champion Richmond, 5-1, but subsequently lost two in a row to the likes of Old Dominion and Louisville. AU plays to the level of its competition so it will have to step up its offensive attack in order to win.

On Sunday, the task gets a whole lot tougher for UMass as it visits No. 2 Maryland.

The Terrapins are the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions and winners of three out of the last five national titles. They enter the weekend with a perfect 5-0 record, and their opponents thus far have a combined 27-4 record.

Maryland also leads the nation in goals per game, averaging 5.4 goals in each contest.

The Terrapins are led on defense by three-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year and last season’s best all around player, Katie O’Donnell, as well as sophomore forward Megan Frazer. O’Donnell tallied 22 points on six goals and 10 assists last season, while Frazer already has four goals and three assists in 2010.

Last week, after defeating then-No. 4 UConn and Yale in consecutive games, the Minutewomen moved into the national Top 25 rankings, reaching No. 20. The wins came in part by believing in the system UMass coach Justine Sowry put into place, while also receiving outstanding play from Bowman, Kelly and Widdall.

In recognition of their performance, Bowman received Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week and UMass Co-Athlete of the Week honors while Kelly earned the A-10 Player of the Week honors.

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]