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March 22, 2017

Minutewomen begin Atlantic 10 Tournament against Duquesne

On Sunday, it took two UMass shutout victories and a Duquesne upset over La Salle to give the Massachusetts women’s soccer team a playoff berth.

Now, with the field set for the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the No. 6 seeded UMass (6-10-2, 5-6-0 A-10) is set to play its most important match of the year on Thursday, when it takes on No. 3 Fordham in the opening round.

Following Sunday’s dramatics, UMass coach Angela Napoli regrouped her team and set her sights on the tournament.

“We’re the only team in the tournament this year that wasn’t in it last year,” she said. “So we were prepping them on the conference mentality and what to expect when we get there. I don’t want them to get too excited and lose focus.”

The Rams (8-11-0, 7-4-0 A-10) were victorious in the one game they played against the Minutewomen this season, when they defeated UMass at home in overtime, 3-2. The match favored the visiting team statistically, but not by a substantial margin.

The Rams took an early 2-0 lead in the first half on goals by midfielder Michelle Ancelj only to relinquish the lead to a resilient Minutewomen squad. Just before the half, junior forward Therese Smith cut the lead in half with a creative, unassisted goal just inside the far post.

A half hour into the second half, UMass tied the game with a goal from redshirt junior Sydney Stoll, who netted her shot from a Smith helper. The late goal sent the match into overtime, when Fordham’s Leah Loguidice took advantage of a UMass turnover and beat goalie Emily Cota in a one-on-one.

Corner kicks favored the Rams, 5-3, while UMass registered eight shots on goal to the Rams’ five.

Offensively for the Minutewomen, the match resembled many others over the course of the season, where Stoll and Smith filled the stat sheet. If UMass hopes to make it far in the tournament, it will need contributions from other players.

“I remember in that game there was a twenty-minute period where we couldn’t possess the ball and we were receiving a lot of pressure,” Napoli said. “We really have to focus on getting the ball forward and limiting their opportunities; if we do that, we should do very well.”

Unlike UMass, Fordham has a variety of players capable of finding the net, most notably senior forward Leah Loguidice and Annie Worden, who accounted for 25 of the team’s 83 points in the season. Loguidice’s six goals and 13 points lead the team in both categories, while Worden trailed her with five goals and twelve points. However, the Rams have seven other players with at least one goal, as opposed to the Minutewomen, who aside from Stoll and Smith, have four players with at least one goal.

Fordham has more shots on goal (97) than UMass (78) and also the edge in corner kicks, 72-57.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Rams is their success closing out the season. Fordham won five of its last six games prior the tournament, four of them coming via the shut-out. Given UMass’ lack of offensive prowess, Fordham’s strong play defensively could very well mean a long day for the Minutewomen. UMass will have to convert on its scoring chances, which is something it failed at throughout the season.

Should the Minutewomen come away on top, they will go on to face No. 1 Dayton, which will enter the tournament undefeated in thirty games. Napoli, aware of the possible second round meeting with the Flyers, is satisfied with the draw.

“Although Dayton is undefeated and is a great team, I feel we lucked out drawing them instead of Charlotte,” she said.

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

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