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March 23, 2017

Defense starting to pick-up for Minutewomen

Geoff King/Collegian

The defense for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team that has been struggling to finish games throughout the fall picked up its first Atlantic 10 conference victory on Sunday in a 1-0 shutout over Saint Louis.

The Minutewomen defense was sharp on a sun-drenched Rudd Field against the Billikens. Sunday marked the first-ever victory for the Maroon and White over SLU in their all-time series, as well as it being the first time all season that the Minutewomen blanked their opponents for three consecutive halves.

The Minutewomen held A-10 opponent Charlotte scoreless in the second half on Friday. Three of the four UMass wins this season have come via the shutout.

A trend of UMass seemed to be playing a tight back-and-forth game, but coming up short in the end. The Maroon and White fell to Brown on Sept. 23 with a Marybeth Lesbirel game-winner in the 87th minute. It was the same story against Oakland on Sept. 19 with the contest tied at two apiece, but a Nicole DeLuca goal in the 82nd minute sent the Minutewomen home disappointed.

The second half defense of late has been key for the Minutewomen as they have shut-out their last three opponents in the later half. UMass has allowed 16 total shots in the second half of the last three games combined.

UMass has fared better on its home turf with nine goals allowed in six contests compared to 12 allowed on the road in five games played. Two of their three shutouts were at Rudd Field against Vermont and most recently, the Billikens.

“It was good for Emersyn [Pullan] to get a shutout and I thought we played a really good second half,” UMass coach Ed Matz said.

The freshman has been factor for the Minutewomen in replacement of sophomore goaltender Emily Cota. Pullan saw her first collegiate action against Harvard and responded with a three-save shutout against the Crimson in the second half. 

That success has continued as she has recorded nine saves and a shutout in two and a half games played. Pullan boasts a .818 save percentage and has blanked her opponents four out of the five halves that she has been in net. 

Road trip worries

UMass has proven that it is comfortable in front of its home crowd with a 3-3 record at Rudd Field. The road however has not been as forgiving as UMass is 1-4 at opposing fields.

The last road trip for the Minutewomen started out with a 4-0 rout over Fairfield, but ventured downhill from there. UMass lost consecutively to Michigan, Oakland and Brown.

UMass has scored eight goals on the road compared to 10 at home. Matz will be looking for a better outcome in the upcoming three-game trip.

Michael Counos can be reached at mcounos@student.umass.edu.

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