Miedzionoski a blur at field hockey
Taryn Cardiel is a California girl from Moorpark, living on the East Coast to play field hockey for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, so maybe she’s just a little too laid back to really understand the passion of teammate Jenna Miedzionoski .
“I can’t really describe it,” Cardiel says. “It’s crazy.”
Miedzionoski, a 2007 Hamilton-Wenham graduate who grew up in Beverly, can be thought of as a bee zipping around the field, crashing into whatever gets in her way while teammates feed off her energy.
The longest tenured member of a UMass-Dartmouth team that was undefeated in Little East Conference play this season and posted nine shutouts — eighth-most nationally among Division 3 programs — her efforts went beyond her play as a rock-solid defender for the Corsairs, whose season ended with a loss to Skidmore in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
It started in Miedzionoski’s fourth year at the school, after she had missed two straight seasons — she took a year off in ’09 to deal with a health-related issue and redshirted in ’10 after dislocating her knee — and was itching to get back on the field.
The Corsairs finished the ’11 season at 10-10 overall, marking the first time they didn’t post a winning record since Miedzionoski’s freshman year.
“The team chemistry just wasn’t that great,” she said. “We couldn’t connect on the field.
“After that, in the off-season we played a lot of indoor and played spring leagues. We won the Babson tournament in the spring. Everyone took a different approach. Workouts, eating healthy — we really focused more on ourselves this season.”
And if someone wasn’t all in, Miedzionoski helped change their mind.
“She literally took all the junk food out of my house,” Cardiel said. “I wasn’t allowed to eat bread. She threw out my mayonnaise. She whipped us into shape.”
Miedzionoski’s summer job coaching high school players may have ended when the season began this fall, but her commitment to the sport — which she didn’t start playing until her sophomore year of high school (she was more heavily recruited by colleges for basketball) — only intensified.
She believes she was still learning, trying to soak up new information from each game. But she played like a veteran.
Miedzionoski took a turn at nearly every position on the field, scoring eight goals, dishing out nine assists, finishing third on the team with 32 shots on goal — and all the while helping a defensive unit ranked 20th in the country while allowing just 1.41 goals per game.
“This year has been my best season,” said the 5-foot-6 senior, who will graduate in December after being named first-team All-Little East Conference.
“It was my last season and I just felt like I’ve been playing with these girls for three or four years and we just all connected and played as a team. There wasn’t much drama. We all just enjoyed being around each other every day. It was the most fun season of my life.”
Having spent the past two summers coaching at a camp at the University of Connecticut, Miedzionoski eyes a future in coaching. She is a psychology major, but wants to earn a personal training license.
Cardiel, who called her defensive partner a “kamikaze” on the field, isn’t surprised.
“She’ll do anything but sit on the couch,” Cardiel said. “And she has so much passion it makes you want to play hard. You don’t want to let her down. She probably spends 20 hours a week doing something field hockey-related.
“Freshman year [when Miedzionoski was injured], I don’t even know how we played without her. It’s weird to think about.”
Area players power UMass-Lowell soccer
One of the best midfielders to play for the University of Massachusetts Lowell soccer team, North Andover native Christian Figueroa, took over as head coach at the tail end of a disappointing 2010 campaign in which the River Hawks finished 3-11-2.
Last season, Figueroa had Lowell back on track with an 11-7 finish. And this fall, UMass-Lowell was 15-5-1 and scheduled to play against Southern New Hampshire in the third round of the Division 2 NCAA tournament on Friday.
“This is among the top teams we’ve had,” Figueroa said.
All but two players on the roster are from the Bay State.
“We have a lot of talent in our own backyard, in our own state, if you can get out there and find it,” Figueroa said. “There’s a lot of talent that goes unnoticed because these guys don’t play on some of these teams exposed at these showcases. So we leave no stone unturned.”
Haverhill’s Alex Sindoni has made quite the splash after taking a year off in 2010, starting in every game since. He moved from midfield to defense this year and Figueroa said “his leadership and maturity has really helped us.”Continued...