Amherst Regional field hockey runs unbeaten streak to 11

  • Zora Dallmann, right, of Amherst, carries the ball past Hailley Boutin, left, of Belchertown, Tuesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Katherine Wrona, of Belchertown, moves the ball down field on Tuesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Michelle Risch, center, of Amherst, speaks to the team at halftime on Tuesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Mina Khan, right, of Belchertown, defends Annabelle Olendzki, left, of Amherst, on Tuesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Lauren Cooper, right, of Belchertown, goes to the ball past Richita Randhir, of Amherst Regional, in the first half, Tuesday in Belchertown. J. Anthony Roberts

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2019 8:42:14 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Amherst Regional field hockey coach Michelle Risch has made it a point this season to make sure her team understands that a season isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

The Hurricanes opened their season with a loss to Belchertown on Sept. 6. The result was a punch in the gut, but the team used the game as a way of realigning and getting on the same page.

“I think the girls used that loss as a positive,” Risch said. “It was an eye-opener.”

Since that season-opening defeat, the Hurricanes have not lost a game.

Amherst increased its unbeaten streak to 11 by defeating Belchertown, 2-0, on Tuesday.

Elena Humbeck and Sora Green each had one goal. Gabrielle Mahoney had an assist.

“We have been working a lot on keeping the field balanced and keeping our defensive angles, overlapping, switching positions,” Risch said. “Our positioning was a huge improvement, as well as our defensive marking.”

The Hurricanes applied pressure deep into Belchertown’s end early in the first half. The Orioles (7-2-2, 4-1-0 Tri-County) had problems stringing passes together and committed penalties that gave Amherst opportunities off of short corners.

With 26 minutes left in the first half, Humbeck got the ball at the point and sent a hard shot inside the left post to give Amherst an early lead.

Physical play from the Hurricanes’ forwards created additional opportunities and individual play from midfielder Zora Dallmann helped create opportunities on the break.

“There is not enough you can say about what Zora brings to the field,” Risch said. “She is a phenomenal athlete and team member. She brings poise, steadiness, great ball-handling skills, consistency and she is a good communicator. She plays end to end. Through her athleticism and field hockey IQ, she ends up commanding the respect of her teammates. They look to her to set a tone and she never fails to set it. ... She gives us everything she has every day.”

With 13 minutes to go in the half, Belchertown’s Hailley Boutin created space on the right side of the shooting circle and fired a shot on goal, but it bounced off the side of the cage.

Green scored Amherst’s second goal off a pass from Mahoney to give the Hurricanes (9-1-2, 5-1 Tri-County) a two-goal lead heading into halftime.

“We knew (Belchertown) were going to come out (in the second half) and look to score three goals,” Risch said. “They’re going to play hard and we have to match that, but maintain our game. Stay steady and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Amherst’s Lydia Sullivan made an athletic save with 19 minutes to go in the second half to preserve the shutout.

Members of the Hurricanes have seen the program evolve since the opening loss.

“I think throughout playing games we have developed chemistry,” senior co-captain Richita Randhir said. “We have all settled into our spots on this team. We work together really well.”

This is Risch’s fourth season coaching the program and she is proud of how the team’s upperclassmen have developed as players and leaders.

“These seniors have believed in me and taken to heart what I’ve asked of them in terms of being all in,” Risch said. “They are taking their jobs seriously as captains to lead by example. They demand the commitment from their younger peers.”

The Hurricanes went 0-17 and had only 13 players in Risch’s first season. Now, the team is headed to the postseason with 43 players combined between the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“As a freshman coming in I hadn’t won a single field hockey game,” Green said. “It was exciting to get one goal in a season. I remember being that girl and being terrified to play teams and know that we were going to lose 12-0. I remember that fear and not wanting to play. Now, being that team that other teams fear and beat these teams that I used to be scared of when I was younger is so rewarding.”

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