A strong performance against No. 6 UCLA ended in defeat for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team at Rudd Field on Sunday afternoon.
Moa Mattsson scored the first UMass (0-1) goal of the season, but strikes from Kodi Lavrusky and Abby Dahlkemper gave the Bruins (1-0) a hard-fought 2-1 victory in front of 703 fans.
Despite his team falling to UCLA, Minutewomen coach Ed Matz felt there were positives to take away from the game.
“There were a couple of things we wanted to accomplish by playing this team,” Matz said. “Obviously, number one was win. Number two was keep the game competitive, build on the young team we have, and keep pressure on them to the very end. Though we didn’t win the match, I think we’ve accomplished everything we wanted to.”
UCLA was in control of the match early, coming out of the gate with a high defensive line, and pinning UMass back in its own territory. The Bruins benefitted from the pressure, finding several opportunities to test Minutewomen goalkeeper, Stephanie Gordon, and eventually outshooting UMass, 29-8.
The Bruins struck first, amid controversy, in the 25th minute. Following a pair of saves from Gordon, Lavrusky pounced on a rebound and lobbed the ball into the net for the game’s first goal. The linesman, however, had his flag raised for offside, but a whistle wasn’t blown as the goal was allowed. Matz was eventually issued a yellow card after play restarted for continuing to argue the call from the sidelines.
“The linesman had his flag up, and a young team tends to stop playing when the flag goes up,” Matz said.
UMass leveled the score a minute before halftime. Jackie Bruno turned to get past her defender, burst up field, and slipped a ball into the middle. The move found Brittany Moore atop the 18-yard box, and her shot was saved easily by Bruins netminder, Alana Munger, but Mattsson was there and followed up the rebound to put it into the net.
“It was played outside to the other side, and I saw that it was going to be a shot, so I just followed through, and got the rebound,” Mattsson said.
After halftime, UCLA continued to dominate possession, and kept high pressure on UMass.
The Bruins were awarded a free kick out wide, leading to a ball that needed only to be flicked into the back of the net. In the 52nd minute, Chelsea Stewart swung a ball into the box, which Dahlkemper placed into the back of the net with a soft touch.
“It’s frustrating, as a coach, to give up a goal that way,” Matz said. “We did [get caught ball watching]. It’s something that we’ve been working on all week long, and it’s one opportunity you give a good team, when you relax a little bit, and that’s all it took.”
“That was a very good set piece,” Gordon said. “But we’d been working on things like that all week, so that is unacceptable for us.”
As the game drew closer to the end, the Minutewomen got close, but could not capitalize on a pair of errors by the Bruins. A free kick just outside the box went straight into the wall, and Mattsson’s shot following a weak clearance was easily saved.
Matz labeled the game as a “step in the right direction” for his young team. Having played the game at one point with three freshmen at the back, Matz praised the defenders for their organization and their ability to keep the Bruins forwards from getting easy chances.
“We had eight first or second-year players on the field to start the game, and I think we took a giant step today,” Matz said. “We were very organized, communication was good, and while we know the learning curve is high, what they can accomplish is very high.”
The UMass coach came away with little concern with the statistics, where UCLA dominated, knowing that his team had time to grow.
“We’re a work in progress,” Matz said. “We’re trying to go forward, and we’re still learning there. As a team we are waiting to react, instead of trusting our midfielders. I’m not concerned about that, because I think we created some chances, but I think against a team not as strong as UCLA we’ll create more chances.”
The Minutewomen will now look to continue to move forward on Wednesday, when they travel to Bryant for a 3:30 p.m. tilt.
Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.