Minutewomen kick off 2014 with modest start
After an opening match against Towson which left something to be desired, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team brought a more focused effort into its second match of the year against James Madison, the host of the JMU Invitational in Harrisonburg, VA. But their performance was not enough to hold back a powerful JMU squad, losing 2-1.
The Dukes (2-0-0) controlled possession in the early goings of the match, but the Minutewomen defense held strong. Goalkeeper Danielle Kriscenski, a redshirt sophomore who played every minute for UMass (0-1-1) last season, made some key plays early – and five saves on the day – and the defense created a handful of counter opportunities in the attacking end of the field. The Minutewomen put together multiple scoring chances later in the first half, but struggled to get the ball on net. The first half came to a close without a goal.
JMU came out firing in the second half and the Dukes’ Rachel Ivey, after a series of clean passes, broke the tie in the 51st minute with a low shot that found the bottom right corner of the net. The Dukes remained on the offensive and tacked on another goal in the 71st minute as JMU’s Ashley Herndon’s cross was knocked in by her teammate Sydney Braun-McLeod.
Regaining some of their early resilience, the Minutewomen found their first goal of the match eight minutes later off of a tremendous individual effort from sophomore Julia Weithofer. Heading down a pass from junior Georgia Gibson, Weithofer beat a defender and JMU goalkeeper Ellen Forrest to the loose ball and slipped a shot into the back of the net.
Despite making it a one goal game, the Minutewomen could not create an equalizer in the last ten minutes and suffered their first loss of the season, but coach Ed Matz was eager to take away positives after the match.
“We knew JMU was very good,” Matz said. “I was pretty pleased with the way we played…We accomplished a lot of the things we wanted to do coming into the match.”
UMass On the Edge of Victory Against Towson
On a muggy day in Harrisonburg, just one minute and five seconds into UMass’ first match, the Minutewomen found themselves trailing Towson University.
For Matz and his team, it was not the beginning they had envisioned for the 2014-2015 season, but the Minutewomen eventually evened the score against the Tigers (1-0-1) en route to a 1-1 draw.
“I thought we looked a little lethargic”, said Coach Matz regarding his team’s efforts in the opening minutes of the match. “We chased the play a lot.”
Towson’s Gabby Scirica capitalized on UMass’ slow start and put the Tiger’s ahead in just the second minute of play.
After a few minutes of shaking off the rust, the Minutewomen regained their composure and quickly found an equalizer off the foot of Megan Burke, UMass’ second-highest point scorer last year. Fellow sophomore Alyssa Fratarcangeli secured her first collegiate point, flicking a header forward to Burke to start the breakaway and tie the match in the 23rd minute.
With neither team unable to break the tie in regulation, UMass had chances to win the game outright in extra time. Just minutes into the overtime period, Burke fired a shot that floated just above the crossbar. Then, in the match’s waning moments, true freshman Natalie Perussault from Leesburg, Virginia missed the winning goal by inches, her drive clanging off the post. The marathon inaugural match of the season ended in a tie with the Minutewomen out-shooting their opponents 19-to-13.
“Obviously we don’t want to spot the other team a goal a minute into the game and have to play catch-up,” Matz said. “But I thought we got stronger and stronger as the game went on…I think it was a case of some players getting their feet wet.”
The Minutewomen will seek their first win at Bryant University on Aug. 28th.
Arthur Hayden can be reached at email@example.com.