Aggressiveness and focus, especially early on, helped the Massachusetts women’s soccer team to a 3-1 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday at Rudd Field.
The Minutewomen (7-6-0, 2-1-0 Atlantic 10) put together an explosive first half and obtained an early lead. Junior midfielder Grace Coombs scored only 31 seconds into the game on an ambitious strike from 25 yards out and into the right side of the goal to put her team up 1-0.
The goal was assisted by forward Moa Mattsson and defender Brittany Moore and was Coombs’ first goal of the season.
Coombs said getting the first goal was key to a winning game plan.
“In every game we’ve won, we’ve scored the first goal,” Coombs said. “So we’ve really been emphasizing that. We just wanted to come out strong.”
“Grace hit a tremendous shot, but she hits them like that in practice so we weren’t surprised,” UMass coach Ed Matz said. “I think that put a lot of pressure on Rhode Island and calmed us down.”
The Rams (7-6-1, 0-3-0 A-10) were anxious to put numbers up on the board after Coombs’ goal.
Dariann Sellitti scored at the 17:59 mark as she catapulted the ball to the right side of the post off a corner kick from Jennifer Barrientos.
But that was the only goal of the game for the Rams, who were rarely on the attack and couldn’t take advantage of their few chances on goal.
Next to score for the Minutewomen was Mattsson on a goal assisted by Tori Sousa. Mattsson ruthlessly headed Sousa’s corner kick past goalkeeper Chelsea Broghamer. The ball sailed into the left center of the box in the 25th minute and Mattsson earned her seventh goal of the season.
Shortly after, Sousa found sophomore midfielder Emily Benjamin, who sent the ball into the front left-center of the post in the 31st minute of play. Benjamin’s goal was the first of her collegiate career, which extended UMass’ lead to 3-1, going into halftime.
The intensity level of the game escalated into the second half as URI scrambled to possess the ball. The Rams attempted seven shots in the second half but were unable to put any more goals on the board.
The solid defense of the Minutewomen was vital throughout the game and ultimately sealed the victory. Both teams ended the game with 11 shot attempts. UMass had 16 fouls while Rhode Island had 13.
Matz was very happy with his team’s performance, especially after a week off from playing a game.
“I’m pleased. We put together two back-to-back good games last Sunday and then today,” Matz said. “At this time of year, that’s what you want your team to do and where you want your team to be.
“Our focus and our commitment and the way we came out (helped us win),” Matz continued. “It was good leadership from the upperclassmen and our captains. The freshmen stepped up and played well.”
The Minutewomen will face St. Joseph’s on the road this Friday at 7 p.m. and Temple on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Matz said getting points on the road is crucial for his team’s playoff chances.
“We put together two good games but both of those games were at home,” Matz said. “To get to the A-10 playoffs, you got to get points on the road. Next week is our first test where we go on the road and stay overnight.
“We can either be sitting really well in A-10 next weekend or we could be right down in the middle. It is still early and anything can happen.”
Kaitlin Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.