Time running out for Napoli, Minutewomen

By Mike Mastone

After dropping a 3-2 decision to Fordham on Sunday, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team is now winless in four overtime contests this season.

The Minutewomen (3-8-2, 2-4-0 Atlantic-10) came back from a 2-0 score to tie the game at the 75:37-mark on a goal by redshirt junior Sydney Stoll, but could not cap off the comeback in the extra period. This is the second time this season that UMass tied a contest in the second half, but fell short when the game went past regulation.

On Sept. 17, senior Katie Ruggles tied the game against Hartford (4-8-2) with the team’s first goal of the season at the 51:28 mark. However, the come-from-behind victory eluded the Minutewomen when they could not build momentum the rest of the second half or in either overtime period. Hartford also failed to score and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The Minutewomen tied New Hampshire (3-11-1) four days later in their second of three consecutive double-overtime matches. They could not capitalize on the Wildcats’ offensive struggles and the game ended with no score.

Three of the team’s overtime games came in nonconference play. That is good news for the Minutewomen. Had these matches come in conference play, they could be in a completely different spot in the A-10 pecking order.

The team’s poor play in extra periods is of no concern to UMass Coach Angela Napoli.

“Our regular season (overtime losses) won’t affect us, but our conference (losses) might,” Napoli said. “I hope we take our destiny into our own hands. I hope we don’t put ourselves in that position (where the losses could cost us).”

However, the team’s inability to thrive in overtime situations could be detrimental heading in the final three weeks of the season. With a heated race of 14 teams vying for six A-10 tournament slots, every game counts. Another heartbreaking overtime loss could result in the loss of a playoff berth.

Stoll, Smith continue strong play

Despite the team’s offensive struggles this season, Stoll and junior Therese Smith are on pace to have career-best seasons.

Stoll scored in both of the team’s losses over the weekend to raise her team-leading goal total to four. She also has tallied an assist on this season. Those numbers leave her two shy of tying her career highs, set as a sophomore, in both categories.

Before missing a third of the 2007 season and all of 2008 due to injury, Stoll tallied six goals, three assists, and fifteen point in her sophomore campaign. She has already doubled her shot total from that season with 34 in 13 games this season.

Smith is UMass’ other top offensive contributor this season. She tallied one goal and two assists over the weekend, with both assists going toward Stoll goals. She has already tied her statistics from last season with three goals, two assists, and eight points.

With five regular-season games and a possible A-10 tournament berth remaining for the Minutewomen, Smith will set new career highs sooner rather than later.

“They have played their strengths,” Napoli said of Stoll and Smith. “They are both offensive-minded players. They are two of our better players and have experience. They will be looked upon as scorers continuing on.”

Mike Mastone can be reached at [email protected]