Women’s Soccer: Minutewomen beat Dayton

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The next time Dayton faces the Massachusetts women’s soccer team, it may want to re-think things.

“They were expecting us to lose,” UMass coach Jim Rudy said after Sunday’s game between the conference rivals. “I told our team before the game that their point of view is ‘We’re Dayton and they’re UMass’ and they’ve always been that way.”

And for the past nine seasons it’s been precisely that way – as the Flyers have utterly dominated eight consecutive meetings, outscoring UMass 18-4 in the process.

But for the first time since 1998, the Flyers (9-4-1, 3-1-1 Atlantic 10) walked away from the rivalry without a victory, as the Minutewomen (6-4-3, 3-2-1 A-10) stunned the Flyers, 1-0, at Rudd Field on a goal by Vanessa Lima early in the first half.

“It’s a good moment for them and it’s a good moment for me and my career,” Rudy said. “I’m just so happy for them and I’m so appreciative. That was certainly remarkable that we could play with a team with that ability level.”

Dayton’s impressive offensive attack took just 14 seconds to show, as the Flyers had a good scoring opportunity early. They continued to show that ability in the early going, consistently pressuring the UMass defense.

They were more than up for it.

Led by goalkeeper Lauren Luckey and senior defenders Melissa Toulouse and Tina Rodriguez, the defense blocked and saved shots from all comers and all directions, noticeably frustrating Dayton players and coaches.

That frustration turned up when Lima put UMass ahead 20 minutes into the half. Therese Smith’s corner kick went directly to Rodriguez, who attempted to head the ball in. But the ball ricocheted to Lima, who spun and kicked the ball past UD goalkeeper Deana Waintraub.

“I honestly didn’t know that it went in until one of my teammates tackled me and I looked back at the net and saw the ball,” Lima said. “I can remember just seeing Tina going for the header – I thought she was going to score on it – but it dropped right in front of me so I figured I’d turn and kick.”

The goal came on UMass’ first shot of the game. Dayton already had six.

The Flyers continued with the shots all afternoon, outshooting the Minutewomen 19-7. UMass finished with just one shot on net the entire game, as Waintraub made no saves.

Luckey was tested multiple times, making two terrific diving saves to her left early to set the tone for UMass on defense. Toulouse, Rodriguez and company took care of the rest for the Minutewomen, but it wasn’t easy.

The last six minutes of the contest the Flyers – led by 2007 A-10 Player of the Year Mandi Back and Colleen Gibson – had numerous scoring opportunities. But no one could get the ball by Luckey, who finished with five saves.

“Lauren is amazing, she saved us a bunch of times,” Toulouse said. “She just has an energy that you can feel from the back – she talks a lot which is great for the defense. There’s a sense that even if we let the ball get through, she’s going to be there to stop it.”

“I can’t say enough about Luckey,” she added.

The goalkeeper typically gets much of the credit – and of course, the blame – when goals get scored, but UMass’ junior goalie knew and appreciated how well her defense played in front of her Sunday.

“They are my little comfort blankets,” Luckey said of Toulouse and Rodriguez. “We’re great friends off the field and on the field we really work for each other. They fight for everything and I fight for everything and we win as a team.”

With one of its most significant wins in years, the Minutewomen are now a team that is very much in the mix for the A-10 tournament. After an admittedly poor weekend which resulted in losses against Richmond (Oct. 3) and George Washington (Oct. 5), UMass needed to turn things around quickly if it wanted to be a factor in the conference.

They began that process on Friday, with a 1-0 home win over Xavier (1-10-1, 0-3-1 A-10). Smith scored the only goal in that game (unassisted) midway through the second half. Luckey also made five saves in that shutout.

“I don’t think many people expected us to beat Xavier, let alone Dayton – especially after last weekend when we didn’t have good games,” Toulouse said. “I think people will start paying a little more attention to us now.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]