By Sports Editor Tom Griffin
UMassD field hockey net-minding efforts propelled the Corsairs through a difficult week of matchups against offense-heavy Clark University and Castleton.
Entering their first match of the week standing at a meager 1-4 season record, the Corsairs were set to face off against a winning, intimidating out-of-conference opponent in the 6-2 Clark University Cougars. Needless to say, the Corsairs had their work cut out for them in an uphill battle they were heavily favored to lose.
From the very outset of the game, the key to UMassD’s success was its goaltending. Junior Katelyn Banalewicz, in the face of a fourteen-shot onslaught, came up with eight saves.
While it was true that the Corsairs did not shoot often, they often shot true. On seven total shots through the entire game, three corsairs, including Deserai Melendez, Brittany Perry and Kylie Diaz, managed to find the net for three goals in the first half of play alone. This lead was enough to control the game for the rest of regulation, keeping the Cougars scoreless aside from a fluke Clark goal late in garbage time.
Benefitting from their little non-conference confidence-booster in upsetting Clark University, the Corsairs worked their way toward a match with Little East Conference importance and higher postseason stakes – a showdown against the 4-3 Castleton Spartans.
Despite Castleton’s above .500 record on the season, most of the Spartans’ struggles had been in games that didn’t matter to the LEC. Within the conference, Castleton had claimed a strong, confident leading foothold at 2-1. A win against this team could provide the Corsairs, a team with an 0-2 start to in-conference play, the jolt they needed to reestablish UMassD as a contender.
Unfortunately, the Corsairs’ winless streak in the Little East would continue, following a 5-0 pummeling in favor of the Spartans.
If Clark’s offense had left Corsair goalies standing on their heads to make saves in the game prior, Castleton left them lying face-down in the athletic turf. Make no mistake, Katelyn Banalewicz put up an incredibly valiant effort goaltending and put up an astounding 23 saves on the night, but despite her career-high save output she still found herself suffocating under the sheer weight of Castleton’s thirty-one combined shots throughout the game.
Having once again fired seven shots in total, including three from Junior Hannah Steen, the UMassD offense just couldn’t turn aggression into points against the Spartans’ goalie.
Following the loss to Castleton, the Corsairs stand at 2-5 universally on the season, yet 0-3 in Little East Conference-related bouts. Through next week, they have two additional opportunities to take back the LEC against both Eastern Connecticut and Plymouth State.