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September 22, 2016

Minutewomen start A-10 schedule with weekend sweep

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team bears no resemblance to its former self from a few weeks ago.

With their 0-4-2 start in the rearview mirror, the Minutewomen opened their Atlantic 10 schedule this weekend, defeating Saint Joseph’s, 2-1, on Friday and Duquesne, 1-0, on Sunday.

“St. Joe’s was a solid game,” UMass coach Angela Napoli said. “We played better in the second half by finishing on early scoring chances. From then on, we just held on to the lead.”

Junior forward Therese Smith scored her first goal of the season redirecting a pass from junior Sydney Stoll at the beginning of the second half. Four minutes later, freshman midfielder Meredith Fox netted the first of her career with a pass from senior Jacquelyn Desjardins. The goals overcame a mistake the Minutewomen made five minutes into the match, when they scored on themselves from a Hawks cross.  

St. Joe’s (3-4-2, 0-1 A-10) controlled the ball for most of the first half, registering 10 shots to UMass’ three. The second half was almost the exact opposite, as the Minutewomen outshot the Hawks, 9-3.

The Minutewomen then traveled to Pittsburgh, where freshman goalkeeper Emily Cota made eight saves en route to her first collegiate shutout and UMass’ third-straight victory.

“Emily has come up with some great saves and right now we feel comfortable with her as our top keeper,” Napoli said. “We’re going to stick with whoever the best player is at any given time.”

If not for Sydney Stoll, Dukes goalie Brittany Findley would have had a shutout as well, without having to make a save. Stoll’s goal with under four minutes to play in regulation was the only shot on goal for the Minutewomen.

“Everyone was tired after a long weekend,” Napoli said. “Duquesne probably had the better chances but we battled until the end and countered off their corner. Jenna Goodwin brought it up the sideline and fed Stoll to win the game.”

Goodwin’s assist was the first of her collegiate career. Stoll’s goal was her second of the season as she is becoming the focal point of the UMass offense.

“[Sydney] is a worker. She’s all heart and she’s fast,” Napoli said. “She’s really good with the ball at her feet and without her in the middle of the field, we would lose a lot because she also helps on defense and transitions.”

With both wins, the Minutewomen improved to 3-4-2, 2-0 A-10, while the Dukes fell to 3-6-0, 0-2 A-10.

UMass is now on a five-game unbeaten streak, with its last loss coming against Albany in double overtime on Sept. 9. Its 2-0-0 start in A-10 play is the best it has had since 2005.

“I think everyone is getting more comfortable with the style of play,” Napoli said. “We got more fit, we’re playing stronger in second halves, and the players are trusting the coaching staff more.”

Napoli is trying to keep the team grounded by instilling in them a specific frame of mind.

“We’re taking everything on a game-to-game basis. We have to focus on each and every game right now and not get too ahead of ourselves,” Napoli said. “Our target goal right now is to make the A-10 tournament; it’s way too early to predict the championship game.”

Right now, the Minutewomen are only thinking about this Friday, when they continue their stretch of road matches against Saint Louis (3-5-2, 0-1-1 A-10).

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

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