Minutewomen in four-way tie for conference lead going into this weekend

By Mike Mastone

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The Massachusetts women’s soccer team carries a five-game unbeaten streak into a tough weekend as it travels south to take on Atlantic 10 foes Saint Louis and Charlotte.       

The Minutewomen (3-4-2, 2-0-0 A-10) currently sit atop the A-10 in a four-way tie with Charlotte (8-2-0, 2-0-0), Dayton (6-0-4, 2-0-0), and St. Bonaventure (5-6-0, 2-0-0) and are riding high after defeating Duquesne (3-6-0, 0-2-0) for their third consecutive victory on Sunday.

UMass has not lost since dropping a heartbreaker in double-overtime to Albany on Sept. 9. Things are finally starting to come together for the Minutewomen, who could not score in their first five games.

“What we have talked about is clicking,” UMass coach Angela Napoli said. “More and more of what we ask for on the field is showing. We wanted to change how the team plays. Their old habits seem to be broken and they are consistently doing what they are supposed to do.”

Freshman Emily Cota continued her impressive play in goal by earning a shutout in her first collegiate start. Two days after shutting out Saint Joseph’s (4-4-2, 1-1-0) in the second half of a come-from-behind victory, the Pennsylvania-native played all 90 minutes against Duquesne and saved all eight of the Dukes’ shots-on-goal.

After picking up the win in both of those games, Cota earned UMass Athlete of the Week and A-10 Rookie of the Week honors on Monday. She leads the A-10 with a 0.909 save percentage and her 30 saves are tied for eighth.

On the offensive end, Sydney Stoll is starting to return to pre-injury form. The redshirt junior has two scores in two of the team’s last three games, including the game-winner against St. Joe’s. Junior Therese Smith has also been a major part of the UMass attack as of late. Like Stoll, she had goals in two of the team’s last three games and put in a game-winner against St. Peter’s. They are tied for the team lead with two goals apiece, with Stoll also contributing an assist.

Tonight, UMass will take on a Saint Louis team that has two wins in its last eight games. The Billikens’ leading scorer this season is senior Susan Frederickson. The midfielder has three goals, two assists, and eight points on the season. Sophomore Andrea Barklage is second on the team with two goals, while the senior duo of Kelly Waeckerle and Ashley Hayes tally a goal and two assists each.

On Sunday, the team travels to Charlotte to face possibly their toughest conference opponent. The 49ers are nearly unstoppable on the offensive end and feature arguably the best duo in the conference. Junior Whitney Weinraub leads the A-10 with eight goals and 19 points while senior Hailey Beam is third in points (15), tied for third in assists (5), and tied for fifth in goals (5).

Junior Kirby Stenard, sophomore Jenna McKeon, and freshman Carrie Dail are also having strong seasons for the 49ers. Stenard has five scores and 10 points, while McKeon and Dail have three goals apiece. Junior Sam Huecker leads the team with five assists.

“We have an extremely difficult weekend ahead of us,” said Napoli. “We have a difficult travel schedule with early flights. It will be a hard weekend mentally as much as physically.”

The Minutewomen are in action tonight at 8 p.m. against Saint Louis at Hermann Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. They then have Saturday off before returning to action in Charlotte on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Mike Mastone can be reached at [email protected]