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November 30, 2016

Minutewomen Lose Weekend at Home

Once upon a time, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team was 2-0 in the Atlantic 10 conference.

The Minutewomen opened their conference schedule with consecutive wins against Saint Joseph’s and Duquesne in late September, but they have not won a game since. After recently dropping two 4-0 decisions against Saint Louis and Charlotte on the road, UMass women’s soccer returned to Rudd Field last weekend where they hoped to regain their successful form.

Home field advantage proved to be not much of an advantage at all; however, the Minutewomen fell to both La Salle and Fordham. UMass women’s soccer coach Angela Napoli believes the games were winnable, as well as questionably officiated.

“This weekend was very frustrating. We were in situations where we could’ve won both games,” Napoli said. “We got two very, very bad breaks. I’m not one to disagree with refs, but Friday was bad.”

On Friday against La Salle (8-5-2, 2-3-1 A-10), the refs whistled the clock dead for a foul against UMass. However, the refs never whistled the play up again, instead saying, “Let’s go!” The Minutewomen waited for the whistle that never came.

“We were unorganized from there and a goal came from it,” Napoli said.

All mistakes aside, the 3-1 loss did not represent the type of game UMass played. The Minutewomen outshot the Explorers, 17-12, and had ample scoring opportunities.

The frustration continued on Sunday, when UMass hosted Fordham (4-10-1 overall, 3-3-0 A-10) for the final game of the weekend set. The match required an overtime period to declare a winner, and the Minutewomen found themselves on the losing end again.

“This game was a story of two halves. First half we were not playing our style.” Napoli said. “The second half we were more focused and we were playing with our feet. Overtime was really unfortunate for us, when Fordham capitalized on a bad turnover.”

The turnover occurred in UMass’ defensive zone, when a Minutewoman defender had her pass intercepted just outside of the goal. That enabled a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Emily Cota, who never had a chance on the play.

Sydney Stoll and Therese Smith, two of UMass’ top players, overcame an early 2-0 deficit by scoring two of their own goals late in regulation. However, one mistake in overtime sent the Minutewomen home defeated.

“One of their forwards made a nice read on the ball,” Napoli said. “It was a bad pass and it was unfortunate, but Cota didn’t have a chance at saving that ball.”

Although taking two losses at home, the Minutewomen created chances consistently throughout the weekend, something that has been plaguing them all season long. Finishing on chances is just as important, though, and UMass will stress that a lot in practice through the week.

“There’s a different level of play in practice and in games,” Napoli said. “We’re going to really push our kids during drills so we can make it as game-like as we can.”

The Minutewomen’s perfect start to conference play quickly vanished as they suddenly find themselves 2-4-0 in the conference. Napoli still believes in her team as much as ever, but there’s not much time left for UMass to find consistency.

“This weekend was frustrating but we definitely have learned from it,” Napoli said. “We have five games left and we can still reach our goal of making the A-10 tournament.”

The Minutewomen look to break out at home this Saturday, when they host Rhode Island at 1 p.m. The Rams (4-8-1 overall, 2-4-0 A-10) are coming off a 2-1 loss to La Salle and like UMass, struggle when it comes to scoring goals.

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

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