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The Massachusetts women’s soccer team returns home this weekend to host La Salle and Fordham as they try to improve their rankings in the Atlantic-10.

Last weekend, the Minutewomen (3-6-2, 2-2-0 A-10) lost their share of the conference lead after being shut out, 4-0, in consecutive games at Saint Louis (5-5-2, 2-1-1 A-10) and Charlotte (10-2-0, 4-0-0 A-10).

The UMass offensive attack was nearly absent, as the Minutewomen attempted 11 shots during their southern road trip. Although seven of those shots were on-goal, the Minutewomen could not get any of them past the goalkeepers.

UMass coach Angela Napoli cites one reason for the disappointing weekend in the team’s defensive struggles while the ball is in the air.

“Our air-game has always been a weakness,” Napoli said. “We have worked on our clearance out of the box, and it is definitely something we will continue to work on. The team has worked very hard.”

Freshman goalie Emily Cota also hit the first rough patch of her young career. Prior to the game against Saint Louis, she allowed a goal in just three of her eight appearances. A strong performance from Cota this weekend could help UMass halt their skid at two, but Cota will need a lot of help from the offense.

Redshirt junior Sydney Stoll and junior Therese Smith will have to be more aggressive and lead the Minutewoman attack. They have been the team’s top weapons this season, and need to get heavily involved if the team is to put up a strong effort on the offensive end. The duo has combined for two of the team’s six goals this season.

La Salle (6-5-2, 0-3-1 A-10) is also coming off a tough weekend and looks to get back on track in Amherst. The Explorers enter this afternoon’s game in the midst of a three game losing streak. They have been the victim of a tough schedule as of late, dropping consecutive home games to Richmond (7-5-1, 3-1-0 A-10), Xavier (2-9-1, 1-2-1 A-10), and Dayton (8-0-4, 4-0-0 A-10).

The Explorers were within 10 minutes of handing the Flyers its first loss of the season. After the Flyers scored in the 80th minute to tie the game at one and send it into overtime, the Explorers were unable to respond in the extra period, as they allowed one final goal at the 99 minute, 56 second mark.

La Salle’s offense is led by seniors Traci DePasquale and Ally Kenney. DePasquale is third in the A-10 with 17 points on the season, while her five goals are tied for seventh, and her seven assists are best on the team. Kenney’s 14 points are tied for fifth in the A-10, while she is second on the team with four goals and six assists.

“La Salle has played well against good competition, they are always a good team,” Napoli said. “The same goes for Fordham. They lost a lot of kids to graduation and have had good teams the past couple of years. Every game is going to be a battle and we come to play.”

Meanwhile, Fordham (3-9-1, 2-2-0 A-10) enters the weekend at sixth in the conference with a 2-2 record. The Rams are coming off a win versus the Musketeers, but have been relatively quiet on the offensive end this season.

Senior Leah Loguidice and freshman Annie Worden are tied for the team lead with three goals and seven points each. Junior Katie McDermott has chipped in two goals, while junior Lauren Nowakowski and senior Mary Hennessy lead the team with two assists apiece.

“It is nice to be home,” Napoli said. “We are happy to get back on the field and redeem ourselves.”

Today’s game against La Salle is set for a 3 p.m. start time, while the match against Fordham is slated for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Mike Mastone can be reached at mmastone@studnet.umass.edu.

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