VIRGINIA LOTTERY STUDENT-ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: CHESSA KOWNURKO

After a standout weekend between the posts for VCU field hockey, senior goalkeeper Chessa Kownurko has been named our Virginia Lottery Athlete of the Week. 

Kownurko made 15 saves across two wins, a 1-0 victory over Drexel on Friday and a 5-1 triumph over Villanova on Sunday, for an impressive .938 save percentage. Friday was the first career shutout for the netminder from North Wales, Pa.

The wins didn't come without drama, as Kownurko had to save a penalty stroke in each game. Holding on to a one-goal lead with less than seven minutes on the clock against Drexel, she had to compose herself and read the body language of the player taking the stroke.

"Well I hate strokes because it's similar to penalty kicks in soccer where the goalie is immediately at a disadvantage. It was really nerve-wracking, so I shook it out and got set," Kownurko said. "Some people are really good at hiding their body positioning, where she opened up her stick immediately and showed me where she was going."

Kownurko dove to her left, getting a hand to the shot that would have likely sent the game into overtime. On Sunday, she kept a strong foot on the penalty stroke attempt from Villanova's Abby Siana to preserve a 2-1 lead.

The Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week believes her relationship with her position coach has played a key role in her level of play to start this season.

"Our new goalie coach, Annie [Zinkavich], is a huge part of how I've been playing. She has a coaching style that fits really well with me as a player. I think the stuff that we work on has a lot to do with games. We work on a lot of really awkward, junky balls coming in that are like rebounds, which are more realistic in terms of gameplay."

Zinkavich and Head Coach Stacey Bean are in their first year with the program, and have had an immediate impact. The Rams are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2012.

"I think it's going in a really positive direction," Kownurko said. "Just based on the time we've been here with them, it seems like they're making a lot of changes that are positively influencing things. I mean we're 2-0 on opening weekend, so that's pretty nice."