Minutewomen seeking redemption in Atlantic 10 Tournament

UMass has lost in the championship game the past two seasons

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Minutewomen seeking redemption in Atlantic 10 Tournament

By Javier Melo, Assistant Sports Editor

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When the Massachusetts softball team heads out to Sortino Field for their first Atlantic 10 tournament game on Thursday, it will have been 362 days since they suffered a crushing 6-4 loss to Fordham in the championship game.

The Minutewomen (25-20, 12-5 Atlantic 10) went into the conference tournament last season as the top seed following a perfect 21-0 record in conference play. The unbeaten streak was broken by Fordham in the second round in a 4-1 loss. The Minutewomen would battle and make it to the championship game before ultimately falling to Fordham again.

“It absolutely sucks thinking about it, and the feeling is still there,” senior captain Kaycee Carbone said. “But just knowing that we never want to feel that way again. Honestly, that’s how sophomore year [2016-2017] felt too. I think that last year was worse, especially because of the perfect season, but it’s definitely motivation and it’s also a reminder for this team that nothing is given to us and we have to take it. We have to be on our game every single game.”

The defeat in the 2017 championship game was also a difficult one for UMass. They managed to battle Fordham to a 3-2 decision in eight innings, prompting a second contest to be played to figure out a decisive winner. In the second game, which went all the way to the ninth inning, the Minutewomen faltered and lost 2-1. Fordham has knocked UMass out of the tournament in each of the past three tournaments, the last two being in the championship game.

The Minutewomen have several seniors who are looking to have one more crack at winning an A-10 Championship after back-to-back heartbreaking defeats, hoping to bring home a trophy to UMass for the first time since 2012.

“You want to say you look at it like you do every year, but for me personally, it’s my senior year so like redemption? Yes,” senior Kaitlyn Stavinoha said. “But this is the last shot,”

The Minutewomen also have a large number of underclassmen that have seen significant playing time this season. The sophomores saw first-hand last season what a grueling affair playing in the conference tournament is. The freshmen, however, have never seen that and the transition could prove to be a major impact on this UMass team.

“I think the sophomore class is, they’re veterans at this so I think they know what they’re getting into and they know what to expect,” UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni said. “I think that the freshmen, they don’t know that feeling, but I feel like our Fordham series was a great example of what it could feel like here emotionally and what was on the line for that weekend especially.”

It’s been a long journey for this UMass team. From a difficult start to the season – traveling to various states and facing top opponents to having their home opener pushed to Boston and having multiple conference games pushed around or just canceled due to weather – the Minutewomen are battle-tested and ready for anything heading into the A-10 Tournament.

“I can’t even express it in words,” said an impassioned Carbone on how much UMass wants to win the A-10. “We say the same thing every year, but I feel like this program, it feels like it’s all built up to this. Especially with how we’ve gotten better every year. I just, I want it really, really bad.”

The Atlantic 10 Tournament kicks off Wednesday at 11 a.m. when fourth-seeded Dayton takes on fifth-seeded Saint Joseph’s. UMass plays their first contest on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and will take on the winner between third-seeded George Washington and sixth-seeded Saint Louis.

Javier Melo can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @JMeloSports.