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UMass women’s soccer set to take on Brown at home Thursday

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team enters its seventh matchup of the season on Thursday, welcoming Ivy League opponent Brown to Amherst.

UMass (2-3-1), currently riding a three-game unbeaten streak, heads into Thursday’s contest with the Bears (4-2) looking to build on some of the urgency that it saw in its last few matchups.

“We’re just trying to maintain our focus and hunger,” said coach Ed Matz. “We’re trying to be as hungry as we were heading into the Maine game when we hadn’t won one. We came in really hungry with the right mental attitude and a desire to win.”

The Minutewomen will certainly need to be focused Thursday when Brown, the third best team in the Ivy League conference, comes to town.

The matchup against the Bears, a team that regularly battles stiff competition in the Ivy League, will serve as a great challenge for the upward-trending UMass squad.

Brown, however, enters Thursday’s match at Rudd Field with just one win in its last three games—a 2-1 win over Lafayette Sunday—and will certainly be playing with some urgency of its own to start.

“I think [the Bears] are a lot like us,” said Matz. “We’ve seen them on tape and they possess the ball really well, but they’re letting in more goals than they did last year.”

Bears goalkeeper Christine Etzel, the Ivy League’s unanimous Defensive Player of the Year Award winner last season, has had a rough start to her junior campaign as Brown has surrendered nine goals through its first six matches. At this point in 2016, the Bears had only allowed one goal.

That fact alone could make this a perfect matchup for the Minutewomen, who are looking to get more shots on the opposition’s cage.

“[We’re] just trying to put the ball on net,” said Matz. “Basically put the ball on frame, not over or wide, and make the goalkeeper make a save. That’s what we’ve been stressing and working on all week.”

In the past two weeks, UMass has seen tangible improvement on the pitch.

After enduring a 0-3 start to the season, the now-healthy Minutewomen have climbed their way back up the standings, helped by contributions from a wide variety of players.

One in particular has been from freshman forward Kelly Marra.

Her aggressiveness on the pitch resulted in her first tally of the season, granting UMass a 1-0 win over Holy Cross on Sunday. Marra’s game-winning goal came just 48 hours after the Minutewomen finished a draw with Delaware that went the distance through 2OT.

Marra’s goal resulted from a corner in the 44th minute Sunday, willing UMass to an important win.

“She just attacked the ball,” Matz said of Marra. “She’s a natural scorer.”

He added the freshman’s play thus far has been phenomenal and can only improve with time and experience.

“Right now, she’s relying a lot on her speed and athleticism,” he said. “As she learns more of the tactical part of the game at the Division I level and to not react as much, but make the runs before her teammates make the pass, she’s only going to get better and better.”

The issue of limited rest time between matches is now in the rear-view mirror for the Minutewomen, as the remainder of the schedule will be played solely on Thursdays and Sundays.

According to Matz, UMass sees Thursday’s matchup with Brown as a good way to “get into a bit of a rhythm” regarding the schedule before the start of conference play, which begins on Sept. 21 and runs into mid-October.

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Rudd Field.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at lpflaherty@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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