UMass, Angela Napoli earn first win over St. Peter’s
After starting the season scoreless in its first five games, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team is suddenly able to find the back of the net.
On Sunday, the Minutewomen scored a season-high two goals to defeat St. Peter’s College, 2-1, at home on Rudd Field. The match represented both the first win of the season, as well as coach Napoli’s first career victory.
“This is a big relief. We’ve been working so hard and it really is a just a nice reward. It’s more for the [players] than for me – they’ve been working their tails off from day one,” Napoli said. “We really were looking for this win and once we got the lead I knew we weren’t going to let it go. We’ve been playing better every game and for us to finally get the win shows that hard work pays off.”
The Minutewomen came out determined in the first period, outshooting the Peahens, 13-2. The first big chance came three minutes into the contest, when Christina Adams’ shot from a cross was turned away by the goalkeeper. Four minutes later, a pressing UMass offense registered its first goal off the foot of redshirt junior Sydney Stoll.
“I checked in and made eye contact with Therese Smith who then found my feet,” Stoll said. “Then I cut inside, the goalie stepped up towards me, and I was able to find the opposite side of the net.”
Stoll wasn’t finished yet; 29 minutes into the match, she forced a turnover which quickly turned into a breakaway opportunity. However, the Peahen goalkeeper aggressively came out and deflected Stoll’s shot away from the net.
The remainder of the period was characterized by clean defense and a goal from Therese Smith, which proved to be the game-winner. The goal was assisted by junior Ashley Hamel, who coach Napoli believed was a decisive player in the match.
“She is usually our left sided midfielder but injuries forced us to move Ashley into the center of the midfield,” Napoli said. “She went in there, figured it out quickly, didn’t complain and just worked hard.”
Eighteen minutes into the second period, it was Therese Smith again who nearly added to UMass’ lead. Smith found herself with some space and ripped a shot on goal, which was stopped by a diving effort from the goalkeeper.
Although the match represented UMass’ first offensive outburst, the defense was also strong. The Peahens were limited to six shots, while the Minutewomen registered 22. Although owning an undesirable record to this point, the Minutewomen have not let up more than two goals in a single match this season.
“Everybody on the field defended hard – from our forwards, mids, to our backs,” Napoli said. “We had a couple of players who came up lame during the game but everyone just kept on fighting so it was a great defensive effort across the board.”
The second period showed an increased effort offensively from St. Peter’s, when it forced its first two corner kicks in the match, the latter resulting in a goal from Alex Keddie. Fortunately for the Minutewomen, no more goals would come against them in the remaining 20-plus minutes, awarding them their first victory of the year and adding to their three-game unbeaten streak.
“It feels really good and it is definitely a step in the right direction,” Stoll said. “We were struggling to score goals and this win is just another step forward towards the [Atlantic 10 schedule].”
After being shut out in their first five matches, Stoll knows how the team can further improve.
“There’s always room for improvement,” she said. “Maybe the next step for us is to record our own shutout, which would be nice,” Stoll said, grinning.
UMass’ offensive opportunities sparkled, while the defense continued to limit offensive chances.
“From here we just have to continue moving forward and working on the things we’ve been working on,” Napoli said.
The Minutewomen will look to continue its three-game unbeaten streak on Friday, when they host St. Joseph’s in the first match of the A-10 schedule.
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.