September 3, 2014

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UMass seeks second-straight victory against BU

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team will look to improve its 2-1-1 home record as it takes on Maine at Rudd Field this Friday afternoon.

The Minutewomen (3-2-1), who are fresh off the heels of a 1-0 upset win over Boston University on Sunday, aim to snap the Black Bears’ (3-1-1) two-game win streak.

As the Maroon and White prepare to take on a Maine team that has limited its opponents to one goal or less in four of its five matches, UMass coach Ed Matz knows a full-game effort is needed to secure a win.

“I think it is just a matter of realizing that we have to put 90 minutes together of soccer,” said Matz. “You cannot beat anyone at the Division I level if you play 85 minutes of soccer. You just have to play a complete game. Sometimes you learn that the hard way. We learned that lesson against Harvard. [Against BU] we defended for 90 minutes and won. If you play good solid defense, anything is possible.”

UMass’ all-time record against Maine is 1-0-1, according to UMass Athletics, with their latest meet resulting in a scoreless tie at Maine Aug. 29, three years ago. In the only other contest between the two clubs, the Minutewomen won, 1-0, in Williamsport, Va., in 2007.

Matz, who has coached against the Black Bears during his tenure at Northeastern, knows how physically dominant they can be when they are in the zone.

“They are big, they are tall, they are strong [and] they are fast,” said Matz. “It’s going to be a matter of our midfield controlling their midfield. Hopefully our strikers will put some plays together and get themselves a goal.

“Maine always plays my teams tough,” added Matz. “When I coached at Northeastern a couple of years ago, my team was coming off a win against BU, and we went up to Maine and lost quite handily. They are a well-coached team.”

In a contest that will showcase two strong defensive teams, any offensive opportunities generated by either club will need to be converted.

Thus far, though the Minutewomen have racked up more total shots than the Black Bears (69-49) and have recorded the same number of goals (seven). Also, they have allowed more shots (86-66) and surrendered more goals (8-5) to opponents.

On offense, the Black Bears possess two scoring threats in senior forwards Courtney Harnais and Carolyne Nellis. Harnais, who is second on the team’s scoring list with two goals and seven shots, has scored the game-winning goal in the past two contests, both of which were 1-0 shutouts.

Her performances last week earned her the America East Player of the Week award. Nellis leads the team with four goals and 12 shots, seven of which were on goal. She also has a game-winning goal.

As far as key players, Matz identified who he thinks will prove critical against Maine’s offense.

“I think that Meghan Collins on defense is a huge key for us,” said Matz. “She has played great games in and game out and has probably been our most consistent player. I also think [Cecilia] Jensen is feeling healthy and will be a factor. She has been hobbled by a little bit of a foot injury the last couple games, but when she is healthy in the midfield she is a handful.”

Collins, a senior defenseman and midfielder, has started all six games this season and has been a strong presence in the defensive zone. Jensen, a sophomore midfielder and forward, has also started all six games and has an assist and five shots.

As they anticipate another tough match against a strong opponent, Matz is confident that the Minutewomen will not fall victim to any overconfidence gained in their upset win against BU.

“No, I think we ran that out of them on Tuesday,” said Matz. “I told them the story of what happened to me at Northeastern against Maine and you can be sure we cautioned against it. We are treating this week just like last week after the Bryant loss.”

David Martin can be reached at dmmartin@student.umass.edu.

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