While the Massachusetts women’s soccer team entered this season with speculation surrounding a young roster, it still had one assurance in its back pocket: defense.
After giving up four goals in their season-opening loss against Siena, the Minutewomen have tightened up on the defensive side of the ball, allowing only four goals in their following four games.
While the offense is undergoing a transition period without its leading scorer from last year, Moa Mattsson, head coach Ed Matz believes that his defense will continue to shoulder the load.
“Ever since our first game of the year, our defense has played pretty solidly,” Matz said after his team’s win against New Hampshire.
In three of its last four games, UMass has allowed only one goal at most. The other result was a 2-0 loss to Army. The Minutewomen almost came away with back-to-back road game shutouts this past weekend, but they were unable to hold onto their 1-0 lead against Providence with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
One of the reasons for the defense’s success has been the familiarity between the four returning starters, led by senior Lauren Skesavage, who said before the season began that she expected a lot out of her unit.
Another reason that cannot be overlooked is the productive play from redshirt freshman goalkeeper Danielle Kriscenski.
Kriscenski was just named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week this past Monday after putting up an impressive 1-0-1 record over the weekend. The freshman posted her first shutout victory over UNH on Sunday, while swatting away a career-high eight shots against the Friars on Friday.
“I was always talking to my defense,” Kriscenski said. “I came off strong with my line and if something did happen, I just brushed it off my shoulder and kept going.”
In the 200 minutes she logged behind net during the Minutewomen’s back-to-back road games, Krisenski only surrendered one goal with 13 saves.
Earlier in the season, Matz described his goaltender as “rattled” after her first career start against Siena. Four games later, he’s already noticed a difference.
“Her confidence is growing more and more,” he said. “She put together two very good games, both of them on the road, which is very difficult to do as a freshman.”
Kriscenski echoed her coach’s comments, acknowledging that she’s learning on the go as well.
“The first game was a drawback because I worked so hard during the offseason,” she said. “But I realized I just have to move onto the next game and work harder.”
As UMass continues to search for its offensive stride, Kriscenski believes the defense is more than capable of keeping the Minutewomen competitive in games.
“We’re definitely growing. We know each other really well,” she said. “I think that for the games to come, we’re going to be hard to play against.”
Joey Saade can be reached at Jsaade@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Jsaade1225.