Minutewomen host Stanford in play-in game

By Michael Wood

After winning its third Atlantic 10 conference championship in four years, the Massachusetts field hockey team will host Stanford in a play-in game for the right to advance to the NCAA tournament, which begins on Saturday.

The game will be played at Garber Field at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

“It’s a quick turnaround, but we’ve been there and done that,” UMass coach Justine Sowry said. “We’re going to be home at our field. This is what it’s all about. This is to get to the Atlantic 10 tournament and I know the team is excited.”

The Minutewomen come into the play-in game having won 11-straight games, and have outscored their opponents, 28-8, in that stretch of victories. They swept all the A-10 games in the regular season, and have already defeated nationally-ranked teams like Connecticut and Syracuse in the early part of the season.

Top-seeded UMass (15-6, 7-0 A-10) shut out second-seeded Lock Haven on Saturday in the A-10 championship game, defeating them for the second time this season. Senior Jaime Bourazeris and freshman Alexa Sikalis each tallied goals against the Lady Eagles, who were eliminated following the loss.

Sikalis was named the A-10 championship Most Outstanding Player, and made the All-Championship team along with senior Katie Kelly. Sikalis also took home UMass Co-Athlete of the Week honors.

The Maroon and White will be facing a Stanford squad which is also on a winning streak. The Cardinals (14-5, 5-1 NorPac) have won five consecutive games and figure to matchup with the Minutewomen very well, particularly in offensive statistics.

The Cardinals have scored a total of 65 goals this season, compared to the 38 scored by UMass. The Minutewomen have had trouble scoring this season, at times falling into ruts and failing to capitalize on their chances.

However, as is expected from any one of Sowry’s squads, the strength of the Maroon and White is its defense. Goalkeeper Alesha Widdall has made 88 saves this season and recorded eight shutout victories. The defense in front of her, led by senior Defensive Player of the Year, Makaela Potts, has also stepped up and held high-powered offenses at bay all season.

The contest also represents a homecoming for Stanford coach Tara Jelley-Danielson, who is a UMass alum. Danielson is a native of Greenfield, Mass., and graduated from UMass in 1994 with a degree in Sport Management. She played varsity field hockey for four years and was named captain in her senior season as the team make four NCAA championship berths in four years. Danielson was also playing on the 1992 team that went to the national semifinals, achieving the winningest season in the history of the program.

Stanford has won two of its last three play-in games, but Sowry says her team will be ready to play, as they always are.

“We’re going to be ready and we want as many people as possible to come out and support us.”

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]