Minutewomen must overcome injuries

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The second big weekend of the Atlantic 10 schedule kicks off on Friday for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team. The Maroon and White hope to improve on last weekend’s performance when it split two games at Rudd Field.

However, this weekend the Minutewomen will be playing without junior defender Tina Rodriguez, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the loss against La Salle on Sunday. Rodriguez is slated to have surgery in the coming weeks and will miss the rest of the season.

The injury occurred when her knee buckled and she fell to the ground after attempting a cut. The pouring rain and wet conditions on the field contributed to the fall.

Rodriguez has been extremely durable in her two-plus years at UMass. She has never missed a game. Entering this season, she played in all 36 games of her freshman and sophomore campaigns, making all but one start. This season was more of the same for her as she started in all 10 contests.

“Tina is a really important part of our team,” senior captain Nadia Villarroel said. “Just having her on the field is comforting. Even though she’s hurt, Tina is keeping a positive attitude and will still contribute to the team. She’s almost like a coach now on the sideline.”

Junior midfielder Jenny Roehrig echoed Villarroel’s comments.

“Losing Tina’s presence in the back hurts us,” she said. “It’s a huge loss but we can’t let that get us down. We’ll play with what we have, and we’ll be fine.”

Although losing Rodriguez’s presence and play on the field will be difficult, UMass coach Jim Rudy is confident his players will step up and fill the void that her injury left.

“Losing Rodriguez is a big blow to our team,” Rudy said. “But we’ll be able to adjust by moving our players around.”

Rudy expects a handful of freshman, among others, will step in for Rodriguez, including forwards Sydney Stoll and Cristina Adams and midfielders Meghan Gould and Katie Ruggles.

Rudy remains upbeat going into the weekend due to the leadership that his captains, seniors Stephanie Barrett and Villarroel, bring to his team.

“They’re both hardcore kids who want to win,” Rudy said about his leaders. “They’re hungry for success. Stephanie tends to be the louder one, more demanding. She’s the one you hear the most. Nadia does the captaining more behind the scenes and in personal conversations. She’s more show by example.”

This duo of leadership has helped lead the Minutewomen to a solid 7-3 start thus far in the season. Coming off of a tough loss to La Salle and a key injury, the leadership of a team becomes imperative. The hard work exerted by Barrett and Villarroel doesn’t go unnoticed by teammates.

“Stephanie and Nadia lead our team on and off the field,” Roehrig said. “They build our team chemistry and help us keep a positive attitude.”

Villarroel is confident that the team is heading in the right direction entering another physical weekend against conference opponents Dayton and Xavier.

“We’re trying to keep the team positive right now after the loss to La Salle,” she said. “We’ll try to keep everybody motivated and keep everyone on the team on the same page going into another week of A-10 [games].”

The league games against the Flyers and the Musketeers will prove to be a big test mentally and physically for the Minutewomen this weekend. It will be even more difficult without Rodriguez, but the team will rely on its versatility and senior leadership in an effort to get a leg up in the A-10 standings.