Minutewomen fall in opening round of A-10 Tournament

By Mike Mastone

After sneaking into the Atlantic 10 tournament on the last day of the regular season, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team could not carry any momentum into the postseason.

The Minutewomen (6-11-2, 5-6-0 A-10) dropped a 3-0 decision to Fordham in their first tournament appearance since 2004, and could not match the Rams intensity on offense. The team’s recently improved defensive play also took a backseat, as the Rams came out firing and did not stop until the game’s final 10 minutes. The Rams finished with a 27-7 shot advantage over UMass.

“The [team] battled hard, but I think the excitement got the best of us,” UMass coach Angela Napoli said.

“We never got in a rhythm, and Fordham did a good job of keeping us under pressure and staying on top of us.”

The Rams (9-11-1, 7-4-0 A-10) dominated the entire first half on both ends of the ball, coming out looking for an early lead and attempting five shots within the first four minutes, and nine within the first 11 minutes. Five different Rams attempted shots over that span. Senior Leah Loguidice led the way with five shots in the half, while junior Danielle Ingram and freshman Annie Worden each had three attempts.

UMass got off to a slow start and never recovered, recording just two shot attempts in the first 45 minutes, both belonging to junior Ashley Hamel. Both of Hamel’s attempts fell in between the 18th and 24th minutes, while the rest of the Minutewomen could not shake an imposing Rams defense.

Warden supplied the first and only goal of the half for Fordham at the 30 minute, 24 second mark. Several players fought for control of the ball in the box until Warden deflected it in from 30 feet out for her sixth goal of the season on an assist by junior Lauren Nowakowski.

The only bright spot of the first half for UMass was the play of goalie Lauren Luckey. Aside from Warden’s goal, the senior tallied six saves, and had another strong outing in her final game in a UMass uniform. Katie Ruggles, Cristina Adams and Jacquelyn Desjardins also played in their final game for UMass.

The Rams picked up right where they left off in the second half, with Loguidice firing a shot within the first 36 seconds. Freshman goalie Emily Cota made three saves before allowing a goal by junior Michelle Ancelj at the 56:04 mark. Ancelj made a deep shot from 56 feet out on the far left side of the field, scoring her fourth goal of the season.

Over the next 15 minutes, the teams combined for four shots, with three belonging to UMass. The Rams struck again, extending their lead to 3-0 during the 71st minute, when freshman Megan Cookson took a deep pass from sophomore Mariella Romano and sent it soaring past Cota into the left side of the net.

Both teams were quiet for the rest of regulation. Redshirt junior Sydney Stoll had one last attempt at ending the shutout for the Minutewomen, but sent her shot to the right of the net.

“[The Fordham defense] was high pressure, and they just took us out of our groove,” Napoli said. “They gave us no time to pick our heads up and find the open pass.”

Stoll tied Hamel for the team lead with two shots, while junior Therese Smith, freshman Meredith Fox and sophomore Lindsey DiOrio combined for the team’s other three attempts. Hamel and DiOrio accounted for UMass’ three shots on-goal with Cota finishing with seven saves.

On the opposing side, Fordham finished with 27 shots, including 16 on goal. Loguidice led the way with seven attempts, while Romano and Ingram finished and tied for second with four apiece. Freshman goalie Rachel Suther had a strong but quiet day in net for the Rams, playing 90 scoreless minutes and tallying just one save.

“It was definitely a success, but definitely tough as well,” Napoli said of her first season at the helm. “We were trying to make changes, and it was just up and down. The fact that we finished six spots higher than the A-10 coaches predicted shows that we made huge improvements.”

Mike Mastone can be reached at [email protected]