Before Sarah Pandolfi checked into the scoreless game late in the second half, Massachusetts women’s soccer coach Ed Matz instructed his freshman forward where to position herself in order to score.
In the 83rd minute, she listened to him.
Heading to the far post, Pandolfi hauled in a cross-field pass from the left sideline by teammate Jackie Bruno and headed the ball home to break the scoreless struggle and give the Minutewomen a 1-0 victory over Bryant University at home on Thursday.
“Before Sarah went in, I said, ‘you just need to get to the far post’ because I thought we were generating a lot of crosses,” Matz said. “I challenged her to do that, and she got on the end and scored.”
While the goal may have not gone in the way she intended, Pandolfi still emphasized the importance of getting in an offensive rhythm.
“I kind of thought the goalie was going to have it so I kind if turned my head and I hit it on the side of my head,” she said. “It takes us a while to score, but once we do, it really pumps us up and helps us out, even if it’s an accident.”
Coming out of halftime locked in a scoreless tie, the Minutewomen (4-5-1) took control of the game on both sides of the ball. In the second half, the UMass offense outshot the Bulldogs (4-6-0) 12-1, including a 4-1 advantage in corner kicks.
On the defensive end, the Minutewomen gave up only one shot in the final 45 minutes of the game, which came in the match’s final seconds.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Danielle Kriscenski made four saves – including a leaping tip over the cross bar and a diving stop in the first half – to register her second shutout of the season.
“I think in the first half, (Kriscenski) made two tremendous saves to keep us in the game,” Matz said. “And in the second half, our defense stepped up and played pretty well.”
Co-captains Lauren Skesavage and Grace Coombs also received high praises from Matz after the game. The fourth-year coach was impressed with Skesavage’s leadership on the defensive end and thought Coombs “played her best game of the year.”
With Thursday’s win, the Minuewomen have had consecutive victories for the first time this season.
Matz and his players understood the importance of gaining consistency heading into the start of Atlantic 10 play, which begins Sunday at Saint Joseph’s.
“It feels really good,” Pandolfi said of her team’s current two-game winning streak. “We got off to a rocky start. It helps us to know, starting A-10′s now, to go into those and to play our best.”
Matz echoed his player’s sentiment.
“Our goal was to be playing our best soccer going into the A-10′s, and I think we’re doing that;,” Matz said.“We just got to keep the momentum up.
“On Sunday things get a little more tense and little harder for us.Points are a little harder to come by, but we’ll continue.”
Joey Saade can be reached at Jsaade@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Jsaade1225.