#6 Stonehill and #2 UMass Lowell Set for NE-10 Title Showdown

Junior Kathryn Nelson leads the NE-10 with six gamewinning goals this season heading into tomorrow night's showdown with #2 UMass Lowell. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Wednesday night's winner to have big leg up for NE-10 regular season crown

EASTON, Mass. (October 26, 2010) – The Stonehill College field hockey team, ranked sixth in this week's Kookaburra/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division II poll, officially puts its 2009 Northeast-10 Conference regular season championship on the line when it hosts No. 2-ranked University of Massachusetts Lowell in a battle of NE-10 unbeatens at W.B. Mason Stadium on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Admission for the matchup of nationally ranked opponents is free.

Stonehill (11-4, 7-0 NE-10), looking to defend its 2009 NE-10 title and claim its third regular season crown in all, enters tomorrow night's showdown winners of eight straight and ten of its last 11 after Saturday's 2-1 overtime victory at Saint Anselm College. UMass Lowell (15-0, 5-0 NE-10), seeking its fourth NE-10 regular season crown in the last six years, enters tomorrow night's matchup with an unblemished record after posting its seventh-straight shutout win, 3-0, at Saint Michael's College on Saturday.

While the NE-10 regular season won't be officially decided tomorrow night, the winner will have a big leg up heading into the final two weeks of the regular season – especially Stonehill with only two NE-10 games remaining after tomorrow night and already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker with third-place Adelphi University (8-5, 3-1 NE-10) who has yet to play UMass Lowell (11/6, 1 p.m.).

Stonehill and UMass Lowell enter tomorrow night's game ranked first and second among NE-10 leaders in most offensive and defensive categories. The River Hawks have allowed just two goals all season (0.13 team goals against average) and also lead the NE-10 with 5.00 goals per game, scoring margin (+4.87) and shutouts (13). The Skyhawks are second in the Conference to UML in scoring (2.53 goals per game), team goals against average (1.44), shutouts (5) and scoring margin (+1.06). UML also holds a slight edge in penalty corners per game (12.4) over Stonehill (11.7).

Senior Courtney Foley leads the team with six assists, but will spearhead a defense that will need to be on its toes on Wednesday night. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Tomorrow night's game also features the top four point scorers in the NE-10, led by UMass Lowell senior All-American Sammy Macy (Tewksbury, Mass./Tewksbury) with a Conference-best 20 goals and 11 assists for 51 points. She is followed by classmate Katie Enaire (Amesbury, Mass./Amesbury) with 16 goals and four assists for 36 points among NE-10 leaders, while fellow senior Liz Day (North Andover, Mass./North Andover) has posted 11 goals and eight assists for 30 points. Senior Jaime Hadley (Chelmsford, Mass./Chelmsford) shares the NE-10 lead with 11 assists to go with two goals for 15 points.

Junior Kathryn Nelson (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) ranks third in the NE-10 for Stonehill with 33 points and 15 goals, adding three assists. She has scored a Conference-best six gamewinning markers this season. Senior Lindsey Pinkham (Skowhegan, Maine/Skowhegan Area) has added six goals and four assists for 16 points, while classmate Courtney Foley (Wakefield, Mass./Wakefield) leads the team with six assists to go with four goals for 14 points. Foley also spearheads the Skyhawks defense that is limiting opponents to just nine shots per game, including 5.5 per game on goal and yielding just 5.8 corners per game.

Freshman Melanie Hopkins (Harwich, Mass./Harwich) has played all but 50:47 in the UMass Lowell goal in her first collegiate season and leads Division II with a 0.14 goals against average and a .959 save percentage with 12 shutouts and averaging 3.1 saves per game. The River Hawks defense has not allowed a goal in their last 525:28 dating back to a first half goal by American International College on September 25. Senior Courtney Osier (South Dennis, Mass./Dennis-Yarmouth) has played all but 21 minutes in the Stonehill goal this season and has registered a 1.47 goals against average and .741 save percentage while averaging 4.2 saves per game.

Senior Courtney Osier will backbone the Skyhawks defense. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Tomorrow night marks the second meeting of the season between these two clubs that reached the NCAA Division II Final Four last season. UMass Lowell scored four second half goals the span of 14 minutes to post a 4-0 victory over Stonehill in Lowell on September 22. The Skyhawks won both regular season meetings with the River Hawks in 2009, including a 3-1 victory in the NE-10 matchup in Lowell, but UML exacted revenge with a 2-1 triumph in the National Semifinals at W.B. Mason Stadium last November to advance to the national title match.

Tomorrow night's game will mark the final regular season home contest for Stonehill's six seniors: Foley, Osier, Pinkham, Michaela Deasy (North Falmouth, Mass./Falmouth), Lauren Gifford (Goffstown, N.H./Goffstown) and Laura Noce (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury).

Following tomorrow night's matchup, Stonehill closes out the regular season with three road games, beginning next Tuesday, November 2, when it visits Merrimack College at 4 p.m. The Skyhawks visit Southern Connecticut State University for its final non-conference match of the regular season on Saturday, November 6, at 2 p.m., before rounding out the regular season at Assumption College on Wednesday, November 10, at 4 p.m.

The Northeast-10 Tournament opens with first round action on Tuesday, November 16 with the No. 3 and 4 seeds hosting the fifth and sixth seeds. The top two teams in the final NE-10 standings earn byes to the NE-10 semifinals on Friday, November 19, with the top seed serving as host of both semifinals and the Championship on Saturday, November 20.

Coach's Corner with Shelly Morris