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May 8, 2017

UMass women’s soccer starts Atlantic 10 schedule

wsocAThe Atlantic 10 schedule begins today, and for Massachusetts women’s soccer coach Angela Napoli, her team couldn’t pick a better time to get hot.

After opening the season 0-4, the Minutewomen picked up their play with two double overtime ties and a win to finish off the non-conference schedule. Now the team looks to continue its impressive play when it matters most, in A-10 games.

“The team is looking very good,” Napoli said. “We’ve been working really hard so it should be a good weekend. We’re definitely confident right now after two ties and a win.”

Although looking much better as of late, UMass has much more in store for itself on Friday, when it hosts Saint Joseph’s, and then on Sunday, when it travels to Duquesne.

“We just need to focus on us. We’ve been talking about moving the ball and changing the point of attack,” Napoli said. “These are going to be very tough games. St. Joe’s and Duquesne have played tough games and have been playing well. If we can stick to what we’ve been doing, we can win out this weekend.”

Things may change a little bit defensively for the Minutewomen on Friday, when they will have their hands full with St. Joe’s forward Maggie Lupinski, who accounts for six of the team’s nine goals.

“We won’t change our strategy. We’re just going to have to keep an eye on her at all times and make sure we know where she is on the field,” Napoli said. “She plays on the left side so she will be matched up against Kelsey Anderson, who will be a great match defensively.”

After dealing with the Hawks (3-3-2), the Maroon and White will finish the weekend against the Dukes (3-4-0).

Duquesne’s three wins come at the expense of Robert Morris, Bucknell and Charleston. Leading its offense is Samantha Kaiser, who has four goals on the season. Perhaps Duquesne’s biggest threat, however, is goalkeeper Gabby Morin, who has played all 608 plus minutes for the Dukes, while attaining a 1.33 goals against average, a 0.743 save percentage and three shut-outs.

Comparing statistics between UMass and its opponents will show quite a discrepancy in offensive categories, as the Minutewomen have three goals in 81 attempts against opponent’s eight goals in 142 attempts. To this point, the Minutewomen average 11.6 shots per game while their opponents average 20.3. The only opponent to out-shoot UMass in that stretch was Hartford in a 1-1 draw.

Contrary to the offense, the defense has been consistent throughout the young season, allowing 1.14 goals per game.

If both sides of the ball can continue to contribute equally, the Minutewomen will drastically improve their record and set their sights on the A-10 tournament.

Historically, UMass has great success against both St. Joe’s and Duquesne, owning a 9-2-0 record against the Hawks and an 8-4-0 record against the Dukes dating back to 1996, when coach Napoli started in net for the Minutewomen.

“I always want to keep the successful tradition of UMass alive. I remember when we wouldn’t bat an eye at tough teams a while ago,” Napoli said. “NCAA soccer is getting stronger every year so now it’s tougher. No matter what team is on the field, we just want to go out and win.”

No better time than now. With non-conference games out of the picture and the Minutewomen firing on all cylinders, the A-10 is up for grabs.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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