Philadelphia trip ahead for UMass

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s soccer team (8-4, 2-2 Atlantic 10) leave the friendly confines of Rudd Field and travel to Philadelphia, Pa. for two key A-10 matchups this weekend. Tonight it takes on the Saint Joseph’s Hawks and on Sunday afternoon turns its attention to the Temple Owls.

The Minutewomen bring a lifetime 7-2 record against Saint Joseph’s (5-7, 2-1 A-10) but it was the Hawks who were victorious in their last encounter, 1-0, in 2004. In that game UMass was shut out by freshman goalkeeper Jen Kuhn, who is still minding the net for Saint Joseph’s. However, UMass coach Jim Rudy isn’t focusing as much of his attention on her, but rather the rest of her teammates.

“[Kuhn] did record the shutout but it’s the six seniors that they have that I’m more concerned about,” he said. “They’re pretty top-heavy in terms of experience. They also have four juniors and they all play a lot together with the seniors.”

Rudy was complimentary of the offensive attack he will be expecting from the three opposing senior forwards.

“They have three jets up front,” he said. “They have Megan Schutt for power and strength, Nancy Cook for speed, and Ali Wean for technical and skillful play. As a threesome it’s hard to handle. They will also bring fresh players off the bench that will come in and attack, especially [senior midfielder] Kimmy Leigh.”

Those four seniors have accounted for 70 percent – 14 out of 20 – of the teams scoring output on the season and they are also the four leading point scorers on the team. Wean has been terrific all season long for Saint Joseph’s. She leads the team in goals with six and is tied in assists with three.

Wean has amassed five yellow cards this season alone, which also leads the team. She was suspended for the game against Temple on Oct. 6 due to that high amount. In fact, the Hawks have totaled 13 yellow cards on the season, which is 13 more than UMass has in 2006. This doesn’t surprise Rudy in the least bit.

“That’s Philly ball,” he said. “When you go to Philadelphia you can expect to play in a physical game. You never know what’s going to happen with Wean. The rest of the cards are spread out evenly to the rest of the team.”

In addition to the experience of Saint Louis, Rudy is worried how his team will play on the Astroturf where the Hawks play their home games.

“It’s tough to prepare for,” he said. “It plays much faster than the field turf we play on. It’s very unforgiving and the ball bounces extremely high. We trained on Garber Field to simulate what it will be like and we had a hard time adjusting to it and connecting on our passes. If you miss someone by three inches the ball is gone.”

“It’s a great home field advantage for them since no other team uses that surface anymore,” he added. “They play so well on it and they pressure their opponents so high that the other team can’t use any skill or technique. It can also be very exhausting to play on that surface.”

Sunday’s game against Temple (3-9, 0-3 A-10) will provide UMass with a reprieve of the Astroturf, but not in competition.

“Despite their record, Temple has the best team they’ve had in some time,” Rudy said. “They come and bring their game and put the pressure on. It can be tough to win at their place.”

UMass has held the upper hand in the lifetime series, winning 10 out of 13, including the last time they met in two years ago in a 3-2 victory in overtime. Junior forward and leading scorer, Britt Canfield, was once again the star in that game as she recorded two goals, including the game-winner off a pass from senior midfielder Elizabeth Weinsten.

“It was a frustrating game,” Rudy said. “We dominated much of the match fairly well. But we kept plugging away and it ended up as a nice win.”

“This year’s team is very similar to Xavier, except for technical play,” he added. “They have two really good frontrunners, especially sophomore forward Charisma Wright.”

These conference games will go a long way in determining how the rest of the A-10 shapes up as it pertains to the Minutewomen.

“I’m expecting two tough games this weekend,” Rudy said.