From Brendan Kane of SouthCoastToday.Com
Taylor Canastra's first three seasons at Southern Maine featured 14 wins and 38 losses, so a 6-1 start to the 2018 campaign is a welcome sight.
So too is her 0.95 goals-against-average, easily the best of her three seasons as the Huskies starter.
"We've been doing pretty well recently," the Fairhaven High School graduate said. "I think it's going to take some work and some effort in practice to stay focused and work toward what we're implementing, but I think we can keep it rolling."
A big reason for Southern Maine's turnaround — in addition to Canastra's improved netminding — is first-year head coach Scott Benjamin, who took over for Lisa Petruccelli after the program's 12th consecutive losing season.
The coaching change occurred very late, and Benjamin was announced just a couple of weeks before the preseason began. Canastra first met the former New Hampton Prep coach on a video conference with the other four members of the team's leadership council.
"We talked about how we were looking to get the season started and he said he would implement an intense style of play," Canastra recalled. "We didn't know how it would work. We were all a little nervous. ... It wasn't that hard. Everyone was totally on board and I think we picked up on it pretty well."
Benjamin's more aggressive defensive scheme meant Canastra had to make some adjustments. Instead of keeping her heels on the end line, Benjamin wanted her to come out of the net more, often meeting attackers outside the 18.
"It's a lot of work, but it pays off," she said. "In the past I've been able to stay reserved, but now they're having me play out of the box, both figuratively and literally."
She said the biggest challenge has been ensuring she knows where she is on the field — and whether she's allowed to use her hands.
"If it's a 50-50 ball I have to know where we will meet," she said. "I have to be prepared to use my feet."
While the changes have resulted in the team equaling its best win total in Canastra's tenure (a 6-12 record her sophomore year), not many of those losses were due to Canastra's failure in net.
After four years as Fairhaven's starting netminder, she chose Southern Maine over Plymouth State because of its proximity to ski mountains, its two campuses and the fact that it offered a biology education major.
"I was totally lost looking for colleges," she admitted. "To make a long story short, I wanted to go somewhere I could ski in the winter and I met the coaches and the team here and they made me feel like I definitely belonged." READ MORE