By Contributing Writer Samantha Bittenbender
A player crashes to the turf feeling the pain of failure as the person she was defending shoots past her and scores against her. The game of field hockey is vigorous and unforgiving at times, this being one of them as she stands and wipes the blood from her knee. In the past she would have hung her head, yelled out in rage at her teammates and given up the fight. But this game, this year is different. She picks up her stick and dusts off her skirt, feeling a teammate pat her back as they sprint by. Together they line up to win the goal back. There’s faith on the field, a unanimous decision to not give up and fight for each other instead of against each other. The 2019 Women’s Field Hockey team at UMass Dartmouth is proving how unity is what it takes to rebuild a team, and at times can overpower talent. “I think it’s a better team atmosphere than last year,” Said Head Coach Linee Mello-Frost, “the girl’s are all connected more and trusting more.” The Corsairs record of 7-ll, finishing 5-7 in their conference and qualifying for a quarter final game, trumps their final standings in their previous 2018 season where they finished 3-16. A season in which they all agree the team was consumed by a negative and draining environment. “There was drama on and off the field. We didn’t trust each other.” Said junior forward Brittany Perry who’s on her third season with the Corsairs. She’s one of the many members of the team who believe that bad attitudes result in bad play. “The difference this season is the attitudes; we look out for each other and get along,” Perry insisted, “I feel like there’s a lot of support. We have faith in knowing what we can do.” How do the Corsairs display this newfound unity? It’s apparent in their daily behavior. Dance parties on the bus, horse masks in the locker room, halloween costumes at practice and the mutual love and respect for the game all contributed to the rich bond these girls developed this year. A bond that has given them the ability to make it to the Little East Conference playoffs once more. The teams last appearance in the LEC playoffs was in 2017; before that, a steady stream of appearances in the early 2010’s. “Having that off the field connection makes such a difference on the field,” said Mello-Frost. “A team with one, two, three people that are very talented can get stuff done, but if you have a full team of people who are on a middle skill level but are compatible and comfortable with each other and wanna fight together that’s gonna matter more than just one or two studs.” “Obviously you need to have talent,” said senior captain Hannah Steen, “but I definitely believe the attitude you bring in and give to the game will affect how you play.”
The Corsairs have been openly displaying that positive attitude throughout the season, and they aren’t the only ones showing off drastic changes. “I think the teams that normally blew through the league are thrown by the so-called underdog teams,” said junior goalie Katelyn Banalewicz. The LEC teams have faced real battles for standings against each other this year. Coming into the season teams that were ranked in the top five found themselves struggling to qualify for the playoffs as the regular season came to a close. Then vice versa, teams like the Corsairs who began their season ranked eleventh are heading to the playoffs to everyone’s shock. “They’re frustrated when they see us come out with that fight,” said Steen, crediting the Corsairs success this year to their determination when facing tough competitors. “I think it’s surprising,” added senior captain Bridget Harrington, “more teams were in the mix than expected to be. Everyone’s competitive with one another…I think all the teams are having to re-evaluate and readjust to this new landscape.” And readjust they did. The Corsairs proved their claims on a positive attitude true as they powered through their season causing major upsets on the field. The Umass Field Hockey team has broken barriers and proven how readjusting your attitude to a positive mindset affects your play in amazing ways. The program has only pushed themselves to become better, refusing to settle and accept what little improvement they’ve already achieved. In the coming seasons, if not in this one, their goal is to reappear in the LEC final and reclaim that title. With their positive outlooks and resilient fight it will not be a surprise when they do.