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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Minutewomen look to close out regular season with victory on senior day

Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team looks to close out its regular season with a win on Saturday against St. Bonaventure to try to clinch an Atlantic 10 Tournament berth.

The Minutewomen (6-3-2, 2-3-2 A-10) are in a tie for seventh place with George Washington, and they need to finish in the top eight to make the conference tournament.

Having won only one game in its past six contests, UMass’ urgency for a victory is as high as it has been all year, especially with its season on the line.

Coming off a double-overtime 0-0 draw against Richmond on Sunday, UMass coach Ed Matz has prepared his team in practice for a Bonnies team that is expected to be a challenge.

“St. Bonaventure is a very, very good team,” he said. “They are going to the playoffs and they’re a hard team to break down.”

The Bonnies (7-8-1,4-3-0 A-10) come into Amherst riding a four-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents 8-3.

St. Bonaventure runs a balanced offensive attack that has produced four different players with four or more goals. Its offense ranks top three in points, goals and assists per game in the A-10, despite ranking last in shots per game.

One facet of play that Matz has his team focused on is defending the Bonnies’ corner kick, an area the Minutewomen have struggled with all season longer despite their defensive dominance in all other aspects of play.

“That’s something we’ve given up a lot of goals from this year,” Matz said. “They are good at capitalizing on those opportunities, and are very good at counterattacking.”

With the defense focusing on shutting down corner kicks, the UMass offense will have to put together a solid performance, which it has struggled to do.

The Minutewomen are 4-2 this season when scoring at least two goals and 2-6-3 when failing to reach that mark.

“We need to create good opportunities for ourselves,” Matz said. “Our forwards need to make sure they keep moving, opening up space and keep the field wide so we can utilize our speed.”

By speed, Matz is referring to his senior Brittany Moore. Moore is responsible for scoring the Minutewomen’s last five goals, including a hat trick against Rhode Island two weeks ago.

Moore, along with co-captains Lauren Skesavage and Grace Coombs, will play their final games at Rudd Field on Senior Day on Saturday.

The three seniors have provided essential leadership that was needed this season for a younger squad that features 12 freshmen on the roster.

While emotions may be running high when the trio is accompanied by their families at midfield for the honorary pre-game ceremony, Matz expects his team to flip the switch and get to some unfinished business on the field.

“I expect that when that whistle blows and they get their first touch on the ball that that emotional will turn to adrenaline.”

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Rudd Field.

Joey Saade can be reached at Jsaade@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Jsaade1225.

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