March 18, 2009

UMass Gains Steam, Thanks to Do-It-All Drown

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Holly Drown's experience as an attacker has helped her learn tendencies as a defensive midfielder, as she has played both roles for UMass.
© Thom Kendall Photography

Holly Drown hasn't played goalie for Massachusetts. Though she probably could, and would if asked.

"Holly is a great athlete," said Minutewomen head coach Alexis Venechanos. "She has a great game knowledge. She has a tremendous game sense. She does it all. She has those intangibles that are hard to teach. We want to keep her on the field as much as we can."

And so the Minutewomen put Downs wherever they need her. The senior tri-captain has given an offensive boost as an attacker at times, and also continues to provide defense out of the midfield.

"I like it. I'm playing defense and offense," Drown said. "I get to be everywhere. Last year, I was just defense. The year before, I was just attack.

"I'm using my experience from defense last year. I consider myself more of an attacker. I do have experience on defense though. I'm just putting it all together now."

Drown followed her sister Tracey, a 2004 graduate, to UMass as an attacker. As a freshman, Drown recorded 33 ground balls, 20 draw controls and 15 points. She was the Minutewomen's second-leading scorer with 35 goals and six assists the next season, was tied for the Atlantic 10 lead in game-winning goals and ranked second in draw controls. She began last year on attack, but was moved to defensive midfielder.

"It was tough," said Drown, who saw her offensive output drop to nine points. "I've always been an attacker. But it also made me smarter. I know the way attackers think now."

Drown's defensive contributions helped the Minutewomen reach the A-10 championship game for the first time since 2003. UMass was picked to finish second in the A-10 preseason coaches poll this year.

"I think we're a much stronger team," Drown said. "We're a lot more dedicated. We all want to win the championship so badly. I'm not accepting anything else."

Drown has helped the Minutewomen win three of their last four games going into their toughest non-conference stretch. They play at No. 14 New Hampshire on Wednesday, then host top-ranked Northwestern next Wednesday.

"It's an awesome opportunity to play two really great teams before we play in the A-10," Drown said. "They'll get us so fired up and into the fast-paced game, we'll have so much confidence."

UMass has been on the rise since topping then-No. 13 Dartmouth. Drown leads all field players in ground balls and ranks second on the team in draw controls. She is second on the team in scoring with 13 points, including 10 goals.

Getting offensive production has been the key. The Minutewomen have averaged more than 13 goals per game in their three wins; they have averaged just five goals per game in their four losses.

"Lately," Drown said, "we've been playing our game. We have a lot of really young girls. It took a while for them to adjust to the fast speed of the game. We took a while to figure out what works. Our offense is flowing a lot better than in the beginning of the season."

Drown is a big part of it, and will be a major factor in any title run.

"We ask a lot of her," Venechanos said. "The younger girls look up to her because she puts the team first. Whether it's to be active on defense or to help on offense, she'll do it for the team."

Holly Drown has been doing her part to remain a consistent leader, even if her exact role isn't consistent.

"We kind of change our game plan game to game," she said. "I'm used to that. I'm ready to adjust. It keeps me excited about changing and doing different things.

"Coming into college, I was pretty much an attacker. I never expected to see the game in so many different ways. It makes me understand the game so much better."

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