Women’s Soccer: UMass seeks first win in home opener

By David Brinch, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s soccer team has a knack for starting off its season the right way at home.

The Minutewomen (0-1-1) are 22-8 in home openers and last season defeated Iona, 2-1, giving UMass coach Jim Rudy his 300th career win.

UMass also had eleven consecutive home-opening wins before its first defeat in 1989, dominating teams that traveled to Amherst for the start of the season.

But with top offensive threats Sydney Stoll and Meghan Gould sidelined with injuries, the Minutewomen will look to create more offense with a starting line-up that features just one returning starter from a year ago.

“That’s a lot of firepower that’s gone now, so we are trying to figure out how that works,” Rudy said.

The Maroon and White will open its home 2008 season when it hosts New Hampshire today at 4:30 p.m. The Wildcats are coming off a stellar 2007 campaign where they finished with an 11-7-2 overall record and 6-1-1 in the America East Conference.

“I hope we can score some goals,” Rudy said. “I took a look at last years starting line-up. This year we have one person who is in their position from last year. Everyone else has been shifted, or some one new has come in.”

Rudy also has a very young team; 12 of the 22 players are underclassman including eight new freshmen. These players will look to have some sort of impact during the season. He has used the same starting line-up in both games, with five seniors, two juniors and four sophomores securing starting positions.

On Aug. 29th, the Minutewomen could not come up with any goals against Maine, but were able to stabilize the defense, playing to a 0-0 tie. Maine (1-2-0) outshot UMass, 8-6, with four of the Black Bears shots coming in the first half. The Minutewomen held advantages in corners as well as fouls, and Rudy feels that the team is playing good fundamental soccer.

“We are doing pretty well with the ball,” Rudy said. “There’s some skill out there, some deception and combination play, but it’s our final ball, and that’s typical for a team that’s played in, it’s harder to create scoring.”

UMass lost a close game in overtime five days before to Binghamton, 2-1.

The first half saw no goals, but both teams took four shots on net. The Minutewomen struck first against the Bearcats (2-0-1) with a goal from redshirt senior captain Tina Rodriguez.

Fellow redshirt senior Vanessa Lima took a corner kick in the 48th minute and Rodriguez got a head on the ball to give UMass a 1-0 lead.

However, Binghamton went on to score two unanswered goals with one coming in overtime to give the Minutewomen their first loss of the 2008 season.

The Wildcats (1-2-0) won their season opener against Holy Cross before dropping back-to-back games against Villanova and Central Connecticut State University. UNH has two potent offensive players in Michelle Sheehan and Caitlin Whelan.

Both won America East Player of the Year accolades for their respective positions last year, and hope to build on a 2007 campaign in which they advanced to the America East title game. Sheehan and Whelan have each netted a goal this season.

This will be the second time the Wildcats will travel to Amherst for a Minutewomen home opener.

Back in 2006, UNH beat UMass 2-0, as UNH scored both goals in the first half of the win.

Despite being 17-2-1 all-time against the Wildcats, the last victory for UMass against UNH came in 2001.

“Like most UNH match-ups, I think it’s going to be a hard fought tight game,” Rudy said.

David Brinch can be reached at [email protected]