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Minutewomen aid last season issues in early part of 2011 campaign

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team has found success by plugging up areas of need.

Through its first seven regular season games, UMass has found, for now, potential solutions to long term issues.

One point of emphasis was to gain more control of the midfield. With more frequent connections on shorter passes, the opportunity to run up field and gain more offensive opportunities has led to success.

Despite having to adjust to a variety of offensive and defensive make-ups against formidable opponents like Elon, Bryant and Boston University, the Minutewomen have answered the bell, going 4-2-1 after their 1-0 victory at home Friday against Maine.

Another point of emphasis was to continue to build upon last year’s success at goalkeeper.

Junior Emily Cota, who started 13 games for the Minutewomen last season, is in competition with newcomer and Northeastern-transfer, Stephanie Gordon. After Gordon received the season-opening nod from UMass coach Ed Matz, the team went 2-1-1, before Matz made the decision to start Cota against Harvard on Sept. 9.

Since Cota suffered a dramatic 2-1 defeat to the Crimson, she has not given up a goal, posting back-to-back shutouts against BU on Sept. 11 and against Maine on Friday.

“Our team has confidence in both goalkeepers,” said Matz following Friday’s game.

Matz also said he will continue to ride the success of whoever is performing in net.

“As long as those two compete in practice every day, good things will happen for both of them,” said Matz.

Despite the significance of continuing to build on goalkeeping and gaining consistent control in the midfield, the underlying issue of this year’s squad has and will be the success of goal scoring.

Forward Therese Smith, the team’s second-leading goal scorer and consistent offensive presence last season, left big shoes to fill for returning players and newcomers after she graduated this past spring.

Despite those big shoes, a handful of players have recently come onto the scene to help fill the void.

Julie Morrissey, a senior transfer from Cincinatti, who scored 14 goals during her three years while playing for the Bearcats, collected three for UMass in just as many games played. Two of her goals came in a 2-1 victory at home against Elon on Sept. 2.

In the last two games, the Minutewomen narrowly escaped defeat with goals late in the game. The goals were not just dramatic against tough opponents, but also came from newcomers Moa Mattsson and Grace Coombs, both international players looking to adjust to the UMass style of play.

Mattson, a Swedish native who is currently on the Swedish U-19 National Team, is one of 10 freshmen players on the team this season.

Mattson scored her first collegiate goal in Friday’s contest against Maine. In the 87th minute and the game scoreless, Mattson turned around and pulled up on a shot from 20 yards out, a shot that sailed through the air and landed in the back of the net, giving the Minutewomen a 1-0 victory.

“We all worked really hard for this game, and we’re all really happy,” said Mattson. “I saw the goalkeeper standing to the left of the net, so I decided to try a shot, and I was lucky.”

Coombs helped lift UMass over No. 20 BU on Sept. 11. In the 22nd minute, Coombs scored from the top of the box from a lead pass from Deanna Colarossi to give the Minutewomen a 1-0 lead. UMass would go on to win 1-0 behind Coombs’ goal.

Although there isn’t a sole leader to bring the Minutewomen forth for the remainder of the non-conference schedule, Atlantic 10 play opens up in the near future which may create some urgency for a top striker.

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at scournoy@student.umass.edu.

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