Takin’ it to the Top

Takin it to the Top

Ryan Thomas

There’s always room for improvement. Even after consecutive trips to the ECAC East semi-finals. Just ask Maura Crowell, head coach of the women’s hockey team.

“Expectations are high,” Crowell explains only days from game one of the 2007-08 season against Salve Regina College. “We want to make it to the [ECAC East] championships.” After success in her first two years as head coach of the UMass Boston women, Crowell, her staff, and her players are striving for greatness. Pre-season rankings place UMass Boston fourth in the Eastern College Athletic Conference East.

Throughout the summer and into New England’s Indian summer, the girls have been working hard to stay in shape and prepare for the upcoming season. Not all preparation, however, was on the ice. The team met on a weekly basis in the off-season and the foundation of the team (captains and assistant captains) even attended leadership conferences in order to improve their leadership qualities, both on the ice and in the locker room.

Leadership aside, the name of the game is score more goals than the opposition. Last season the Lady Beacons did so with regularity, averaging 3.78 goals per game while going 14-12-1 in the regular season. This year, UMass Boston will be without their leading scorers from 2006-07. Melissa Belmonte and Andrea Ciarletta are both gone so the Beacons need to fill the scoring vacancy left upfront.

Maria Nasta, a sophomore transfer from New England College will be asked to fill the void left by Belmonte and Ciarletta. Nasta, a forward, appeared in 17 games for the NEC Colonials last season. She scored seven goals and tallied two assists. Coach Crowell is expecting big things from the new forward. “She’s going to turn some heads and score some pretty goals out there,” Crowell said about Nasta’s abilities. “She has a lot of offensive skills.”

Aside from being quick and making good decisions on the ice, Crowell says what separates Nasta from the other first-year recruits is her skill-set and year of experience at the college level. “She has a real knack for goal scoring. She sees the ice well and that’s not something you can really teach.”

Good teams need good leaders, and Maria Guanci is just that. Maria was one of many who attended the leadership conference over the summer and Crowell expects the junior assistant captain to make her presence felt this year. “She has an unbelievable work ethic,” Crowell says about her third year forward. “[She’s] working all the time, digging in corners, doing little things not everyone likes to do.” Crowell is expecting Maria to set a good example for many of the young players the coaching staff has brought in.

Even though Crowell says some of her best players are on defense, her offense will be aggressive and very tough on the fore check. Scoring and offense have been the bread and butter for Crowell and her team over the past two seasons. She doesn’t see things changing much for this year. Are the Lady Beacons an offensive Juggernaut? “Hopefully,” she says with a light-hearted laugh.