The 2016 season will go down in the history books for the UMass Lowell field hockey program, as a year that the team made momentous strides at the Division I level.
In their fourth year of Division I play, the River Hawks posted their best overall finish to date at 8-11, including a program-best, 3-5 mark in America East Conference games, which earned the team a berth into its first ever America East Championship.
“The 2016 season was historic for UMass Lowell field hockey,” said Head Coach Shannon Hlebichuk. “It was filled with successes and of course some challenges. We revealed our true character by persevering after some tough losses and staying focused on our ultimate goal, which was to make the conference tournament.”
With the Sacred Heart win, the River Hawks started their longest win streak of the year, picking up their first America East victories since 2013 in their next two games. Sophomore Torrie Huk (Milford, Del.) scored a pair of first-half goals to help UMass Lowell earn its first win ever against New Hampshire in exciting, 2-1 fashion on October 7 before the team defeated Vermont, 3-2, on Oct. 9. The River Hawks then clinched the No. 4 seed in the 2016 America East Championship with a 7-2 decision against Vermont in their home finale on Oct. 28.
“Earning big wins against UNH and UVM to solidify our place in the America East Championship was nothing short of amazing,” explained Hlebichuk. “In four short years, we quadrupled our win total and made it to the tournament.”
UMass Lowell was matched up against the No. 1 seed in the West Division, Stanford, in the quarterfinals of the tournament, which was hosted by Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
It was a thrilling contest, but despite scoring first and taking the No. 13 ranked team in the nation into the break tied at 2-2, the River Hawks relinquished the game-winning goal in the final two minutes of regulation to fall to the Cardinal in a 3-2 heartbreaker.
Even though the team did not get the win, Coach Hlebichuk could not have been more proud of their performance.
"We played our best field hockey game in four years," commented Hlebichuk shortly after the contest ended. "We absolutely saved our best for last and we came up just short. I'm stunned in such a happy way. I didn't know this team had this in them. To bring it out in the last game, and represent our conference and university in that way speaks volumes about the character of this team. I am the proudest coach today."
Four members of the UMass Lowell field hockey team earned 2016 America East All-Conference honors at the annual championship banquet. Freshman Anouk Lalande (Brussels Belgium) was named to the East Division All-Conference Team, as well as the All-Rookie Team, as she paced the River Hawks with nine assists and 31 total points.
Junior Christa Doiron (Worcester, Mass.) joined Lalande on the All-Conference Team, notching a team- and personal-best 12 goals en route to a career-high 29 total points.
Freshman Eva Berkhout (Amersfoort, Utrecht, Netherlands) also garnered an All-Rookie Team selection thanks to her 5-2 record on the year and .759 save percentage.
Lastly, Junior Kelsey Federico (Windham, N.H.), who boasted 95 saves with a .717 save percentage, rounded out the River Hawks' award winners with an All-Academic Team nod.
Coach Hlebichuk will graduate five student-athletes this year, who have all made great contributions to the program, as the River Hawks’ very first class to play all four years at the Division I level. They have been true leaders during this transition phase, helping to lay the foundation that will be built upon for years to come.
Senior Class Tribute Video
Annie Villare, who was the program’s first ever America East All-Championship Team selection, Eleonore Agneessens, Georgia Cowderoy, Jessica Walsh and Kristin Aveni and will be missed as veteran role models.
“This senior class played a crucial role not only in our success this year, but in our overall development over these last four years,” concluded Hlebichuk. “These seniors are to be commended for the way they led, competed and persevered for four years. They certainly left a legacy in their own right by committing to the process, doing things the right way and always leading by example.”