The Massachusetts women’s soccer team welcomes 15 new players in 2011, including 10 freshmen. If it wants to improve on last year’s 8-11 record, those newcomers will need to prove their value early and often.
At this point in the preseason, the only sure thing the Minutewomen feel is positive team chemistry. UMass head coach Ed Matz, who is entering his second season at the helm, said that the team’s “chemistry is very good so far, and the players are doing a good job of pushing each other and bonding through conditioning tests, practice, dorm life and growing as a team.”
“It’s going to take time, having confidence in each other and the system,” he added. “But they’re learning each others’ strengths and weaknesses and are starting to build from them.”
While building that team chemistry takes time, spotting some of the raw talent in practice has not taken long at all.
Freshman midfielder Moa Mattsson, from Uppsala, Sweden, has been named to the Preseason Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. Mattsson comes to UMass from the U19 Swedish National Team and made her international debut in a game against Slovakia in September of last year.
Sophomore Cecelia Jensen, a transfer from Elon University who had a decorated career for Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, has also been performing well early on.
Matz said that he has been impressed with both of these newcomers as they’ve come in working hard on both sides of the ball.
There was also an addition to the coaching staff, as former St. John’s goalie and St. Bonaventure assistant coach Rebecca Capinera joined the staff. In an interview with UMass Athletics, Matz said that he was very excited to have Capinera on the staff and that her familiarity within the conference should really help the Minutewomen’s game preparations.
Leadership will prove to be an important part of creating a winning atmosphere. UMass lost five seniors from last year’s squad and will be looking for other players to step in and fill those roles this fall.
Matz said that often, when there was a big game or one that came down to the wire, the older players took control and stepped up for the Minutewomen.
The six remaining seniors are Deanna Colarossi, Meghan Collins, Lindsey DiOrio, Erin McGaffigan, Julie Morrissey and Natalie Muka.
Matz has been impressed with how the seniors have responded in practice so far, noting how Collins and Colarossi have really stepped it up on both sides of the ball. DiOrio has shown signs that she’s ready to step into that leadership role as well.
The Minutewomen have not been limited to the practice field as they’ve had two scrimmages against the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University. Neither game resulted in a win, but Matz was able to identify a few areas that his team needs improvement in.
“We have a lot of talent, the problem is that everybody wants the ball,” Matz said. “They just have to learn what their roles will be and how to work better together on offense, and from that they will really start to click in the offensive zone.”
UMass’ non conference schedule will include games against New Hampshire, Elon, Fairfield, Bryant, Harvard and Boston University. It will be the first game against Elon for Jensen since her transfer to the Maroon and White this season.
Matz said that he expects the non-conference games to be a tough and challenging test for the team.
“I like our schedule this year,”Matz said. “It is, though, a short season, so we need everybody healthy to make the most of it. We’re getting towards full health, but we have to make sure we try and maintain that.”
UMass was picked to finish seventh in the A-10 preseason poll while Dayton is the favorite to win the conference. Last season, the squad made the A-10 tournament, despite losing its final game of the regular season, 3-0, to La Salle. UMass’ season came to an end four days later when the team dropped a 2-0 match against La Salle on Nov. 4.
Eric Mansfield can be reached at email@example.com.