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Cota leading at a young age

The Minutewomen probably wouldn’t be in the midst of a five-game unbeaten streak if it wasn’t for strong defense, specifically goaltending.

Up until its last game against Duquesne, UMass (3-4-2) played every game splitting time in net between senior Lauren Luckey and freshman Emily Cota. Against Duquesne, however, Cota made her first career start, saving eight shots in a shutout effort. It was the first time all season UMass coach Angela Napoli stuck with one goalie for all 90 minutes.

Cota’s recent efforts have been recognized by both UMass and the Atlantic-10 conference, as she was awarded the UMass Player of the Week as well as A-10 Co-Rookie of the Week.

In 458:20 minutes, Cota ranks first in the A-10 with a .909 save percentage and an 0.59 goals against average. She is perfect in conference games so far, with a 1.000 save percentage, 0.00 goals-against average, and a 2-0-0 record.

Coming into the season, that the plan was to have Lauren Luckey as a mainstay in goal and Cota behind her on the depth chart as the highly touted prospect from the Jim Rudy coaching era. Luckey has not performed poorly, but Cota’s statistics patrolling the box are quite hard to ignore, propelling her into the number one spot in the depth chart.

It will be interesting to see how Cota responds to consistent starts and increased minutes, Only time will tell how short of a leash Cota will be on, as the Minutewomen move through their conference schedule.

Problems with the offense

It is unfair to compare the current team with the one that took the field before Sept. 13, when UMass started its current five-game unbeaten streak against New Hampshire.

Before September 13, the Minutewomen could not score goals, and relied heavily on their defense. On top of that, they were not yet acclimated to new coach Angela Napoli and her playing style. As the team practiced, it became more organized and more trusting of the coaching staff. Although offensive statistics to this point show their opponents at a great advantage, UMass is showing more life offensively, but still have room to improve.

The Minutewomen tallied 99 shots on goal against their opponent’s 172 so far this season. Of those 99 shots, six have gone in, good for an average goal rate of 0.67 per game. Of their opponent’s 172 shots, nine have gone in, good for an average goal rate of 1.00 per game. Opponents have nearly doubled UMass’ shots per game, averaging 19.1 to UMass’ 11.

Improvements on the offensive side of the ball would greatly complement the Minutewomen’s already strong defense and goaltending. It is hard to say where UMass would sit in the standings if not for its defense, but without such effort defending the ball, the season could already be a stark contrast to what it is in actuality..

Looking Ahead

The Minutewomen’s next match is away at Saint Louis on October 2nd. The Saints (3-5-2, 0-1-1 A-10) are coming off a loss against St. Bonaventure on September 27. UMass will have to keep a constant eye on Billikens’ senior forward Susan Frederickson, who accounts for three of the team’s seven goals while also owning two assists. Saint Louis’ strong offense and weak defense is a good combination for UMass, because if the Minutewomen defense continues its solid play, a shutout of the Billikens is not out of the question.

Two days later, UMass will face Charlotte, who currently sits atop the A-10. The 49ers (8-2-0, 2-0-0 A-10) have an extremely potent offense, with six players scoring at least two goals this season. Junior forward Whitney Weinraub has eight goals and three assists, giving her the team lead in points. Charlotte could be the best team in the conference, so UMass’ play in that match should give good insight into whether or not they can go deep into the conference tournament.

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

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