UMass put in must-win situation
The only way the Massachusetts women’s soccer team can achieve its ultimate goal of reaching the Atlantic 10 Tournament is if it wins the last two games of the season.
As long as the Minutewomen (4-10-2, 3-6-0 A-10) can defeat both George Washington and Richmond on Rudd Field this weekend, their aspirations of a tournament appearance will be kept alive. Certain scenarios would need to play out with other teams in order for UMass to secure a spot, but that does not worry UMass coach Angela Napoli.
“Some other things need to happen, obviously,” she said. “But if we win both games, we will put ourselves in a good situation.”
Like UMass, GW (6-7-4, 3-4-2 A-10) and Richmond (8-8-2, 4-4-1 A-10) found a niche in the middle of the conference pack this season, so both teams will expectedly be fighting hard for a spot as well.
The Minutewomen will first host the Colonials, who are coming off consecutive 1-0 victories against St. Bonaventure and Duquesne. The Colonials are riding the efforts of sophomore goalkeeper Lindsay Rowe, who was recently named A-10 Co-Player of the Week for her shutout performances last weekend. In 16 starts for GW this season, Rowe leads the A-10 with 76 saves and is tied for third with three shutouts against conference opponents.
UMass will have to take advantage of their opportunities in order to score on the strong keeper.
“[In practice], we’ve been working on finishing scoring chances,” Napoli said. “We had a competition today with our players dividing into two teams. It was very competitive, and we need to stay focused this weekend.”
The Minutewomen will welcome Richmond on Sunday for the final match of the regular season. Prior to the match, UMass will honor four seniors who will finish off their careers: Cristina Adams, Lauren Luckey, Katie Ruggles and Jacquelyn Desjardins.
“The seniors are all great kids who have great personalities,” Napoli said. “They’re good leaders whose personalities brought fun to practices. They’re light-hearted, but also know when to get serious.”
There’s no question the Minutewomen will get serious on Sunday when they will try to accomplish various goals they set at the start of the season.
“The A-10 preseason poll picked us to finish 11th, and our first goal was to finish better than that,” Napoli said. “Expanding on that, we want to finish in between number seven and nine in the conference. Our ultimate goal was to make the A-10 Tournament.”
All three goals remain in reach for UMass, but the latter will depend not only on what the Minutewomen achieve this weekend but also what other teams achieve as well.
Richmond is currently tied for sixth place in the conference with La Salle, but their inferior overall record to the Explorers’ has them on the outside of the tournament looking in. Like many other teams, this weekend can either make or break their playoff chances, so expect the Spiders to play at maximum effort.
Richmond is coming off two consecutive 1-0 losses and will play Rhode Island before their appearance at Rudd Field, when UMass will honor its departing seniors.
However, the seniors may be overshadowed during the 90 minutes by redshirt junior Sydney Stoll, who has become the undisputed leader of the team.
“Day in and day out [Stoll] will give you 110 percent. On top of that, she’s a great player,” Napoli said. “She works just as hard in practice as she does in games, and I think she’s had the most impact on the team, without question.”
Although Stoll and fellow junior Therese Smith provided UMass with the majority of offense this year, it simply hasn’t been enough to propel the Minutewomen into a successful season. Getting more players involved in the offense has plagued UMass all year, and there would be no better time than now to have more people find the back of the net.
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.