Thom Kendall / UMass Athletics
Thom Kendall / UMass Athletics

The evolution of Chandler Pedolzky: Hometown hero to UMass star

Why the UMass freshman remains close to home

December 1, 2021

The team screamed while piling on top of the lone goal-scorer. The cause for celebration was clear despite the majority of the second half still left to play. The first goal of the season and her first collegiate goal was only the beginning for the local star, Chandler Pedolzky.

“I was honestly really nervous because the vibes of that place were super nerve-wracking at first, especially because it was the first game,” Pedolzky said. “I had never experienced a huge crowd like that so it was nerve-wracking, but it was kind of like fueling in a way. It was really fun. Honestly, that game was probably my favorite game we’ve played even though we ended up losing.”

The ball left the foot of Pedolzky, yet she has no recollection of the goal. She said that if there was no video of it, she wouldn’t know how it happened. The cheering from the stands and the loud campus surrounding was overwhelming for the first-year.

“Being new to a team is never easy,” Pedolzky said. “I feel like we’re all just one unit in a way and I think that’s why we flourish well.”

Pedolzky loved the atmosphere at the University of Massachusetts and after visiting friends who attended prior to her graduation from high school, she was excited to get on campus. During the recruitment process, she grew close with head coach Jason Dowiak and assistant coach Sam Mitchell. It was that level of comfort mixed with the feeling of home that confirmed her decision to attend UMass and continue her soccer career. Her competitive nature shined on the field during training sessions and proved that she would be a great addition to the Minutewomen squad.

It was after she committed to UMass that she learned Lauren Aldred, who had been her coach at New England Futbol Club, would be joining the coaching staff.

“I think she was probably always somebody I knew was going to have a bright future in the collegiate game,” Aldred said. “I think as Chandler went through that process, she realized she did somewhat want to stay connected to home and really thrive academically, and UMass was checking off all those boxes for her.”

It came as no surprise to the Pedolzky family that Chandler chose to stay close to home. Located only 45 minutes from her home, the atmosphere in Amherst solidified Pedolzky’s decision to attend the state school.

“Even though there is a lot you can do around there, she loved the whole atmosphere of the campus,” said her mother, Erin Pedolzky. “She loves her hometown and loves the people that are here, and just has a lot of loyalty. I think she loved thinking that she was going to represent Westfield.”

Caitlin Mott / Daily Collegian

Growing up in Westfield, Pedolzky began playing soccer at a young age, quickly becoming a household name. She started in parks and recreation leagues and then joined the town team. When she was 8 years old, she was recruited alongside her sister to play for a local club team, FC Stars where they stayed until they were 13. It was then that she was introduced to a more competitive level of play at NEFC where she stayed for the remainder of her high school soccer career.

During her time at Westfield High School, Pedolzky helped lead the Bombers to four straight league championships, winning the Western Massachusetts title one year and making it to the Massachusetts State game, where Westfield lost during her sophomore season. She won All-League Seven and All-State in each of her four seasons on the team and was recognized as All-New England at the end of her junior season and All-American as a senior. She ended her high school career with 86 goals and 26 assists, going well beyond the 100-point milestone.

At a young age, Pedolzky was enrolled in dance class and gymnastics but as her athleticism progressed she grew bored of those other activities quickly. In middle school, she began to play lacrosse but that came to a quick stop because club soccer was too demanding and she was unable to juggle both sports. Basketball seemed to be the only sport that Pedolzky continued to enjoy, but she viewed it as additional training to help stay in shape over the winter months before club soccer began.

“I just feel most myself when I’m on the field,” Pedolzky said. “I didn’t really want to stop playing soccer. I just feel like it wasn’t the end of me in a way and I wanted to offer more.”

From the time she was little, Pedolzky was known to play at a high level after playing against her twin sister, Emma. The decision to separate for college was tough on Chandler and despite being able to talk to her sister often, she missed her biggest supporter.

“We were always each other’s biggest competitors because I was always playing defense and she was always playing offense, so we’d spend a lot of time playing against each other,” Emma said. “I think it just added to our level of closeness as sisters too.”

Now on a younger UMass team, consisting of 22 underclassmen, Chandler was quick to earn a starting role and become someone the team could rely on to create offensive opportunities and put the ball in the back of the net. Her drive to continue to improve, along with being successful, is not only in reference to her own performance – she also strives to make the Minutewomen better. Scoring four goals and contributing nine assists on the year, Pedolzky’s impact on the program is widely known across their fanbase.

“I guess it’s pretty cool that I’m from Western Mass. and now playing in Western Mass,” Chandler said. “That doesn’t happen often, and I like bringing my UMass community, but also my home community together.”

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieeWellerr. 

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