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With a new coaching administration, an offensively-stocked gameplan and 10 new players added to the squad, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team has a fresh start for the 2010 campaign.
“We are looking to be as competitive as possible this year,” UMass coach Ed Matz said. “It’s going to be a learning year for us. The girls are going to adapt to the new season, the new roles on this team, and we are looking to finish out amongst the top six teams in the A-10.”
Matz is bringing his coaching experience and technique to Amherst for the first time in his already successful career. He previously led the Northeastern women’s team to two of its most successful seasons in school history, seasons that saw it win the Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2008 and its first ever CAA regular season title with a commanding 12-4-3 record in 2009.
Last year was also the year in which Matz earned the CAA Coach of the Year award for the first time in his career.
One of the keys to the Minutewomen’s rise in the standings is going to be a change in pace from a heavily defensive game to an offensive one.
“Last year, the [players] played a 4-5-1 formation that heavily favored defense,” Matz said. “This year, we are going with a 4-3-3 formation that will not only bring about more offense, but will also bring a more exciting brand of soccer.”
The 4-5-1 formation features a pocket in the midfield that leaves little room for any offensive rushes. The Minutewomen struggled with this type of play last year, letting 33 goals enter their net while scoring less than half of that (15) by their own accord.
The 4-3-3 formation that Matz is pushing into motion is a heavily favored setup at the collegiate level, not just for its goal production increase, but also due to the fact that it does not sacrifice as much defense as would be expected from a spectator’s prospective, especially considering UMass’ defense is already at impressive levels.
“By far, our greatest strength is in our defense,” Matz said. “It’s our best skill as a team and is outstandingly led by our two senior defenders and our goalkeeper.”
The aforementioned seniors, defenders Alyssa Visconti and Kelsey Anderson, both bring impressive numbers to complement their already impressive leadership on the field.
Visconti has earned several honors over the years including the Outstanding Newcomer award following her freshman year. Visconti was also a part of a Minutewomen defense that only allowed 20 goals in 17 games during her freshman year. She started in all 35 games of her first two years at UMass and was a part of 10 shutouts in those two years.
Anderson, a perennial key player, started an impressive 52 of the 53 games that she played in. Anderson also has 34 shots, four assists, two goals and eight points to her credit, and has proved to be an essential player with her versatility as both a defender and a midfielder.
As critical components to an impressive defense, they also find one of their biggest strengths in team goaltender Emily Cota.
Cota has shown impressive ability and talent along with her leadership, traits that are helping her to solidify her position as the team’s starting goalkeeper. While only posting a 4-7-2 record during her freshman year, she showed great promise with a .784 save percentage and a 1.71 goals against average. Cota started in seven of the 16 games she played in, posting 76 saves throughout, with one shutout in her career.
Matz could not be happier with the leadership and work ethic he has seen come out of his returning seniors.
“They worked extremely hard over the summer, came back to camp very fit, and are very excited for the season ahead,” Matz said. “They set the tone on and off the field and play great roles in the building of this team.”
Their roles could not be greater this season, as they have 10 new players to lead as the season begins to progress.
UMass has made great efforts to entice fresh, promising talent to come to Amherst to wear the Maroon and White. Of these 10 freshmen, nine of them have earned spots on the opening day roster. Among them are four attackers, four defenders and one goalkeeper, making it a promising immediate and coming future for the team.
“We have a great balance of experienced veterans and eager newcomers that will definitely make us a strong team for any opponent to face,” Matz said.
Such talent will be invaluable to the Minutewomen, as they look to prove themselves against the likes of Washington, Vermont and Brown, as well as against inter-conference rivals Xavier, Rhode Island and Temple.
“The competition is going to be tough on us during a learning year, but it is going to benefit us in the long run,” Matz said. “They will help us to become a team that can really go the distance during the season and into the playoffs.”
David Martin can be reached at email@example.com.