Minutewomen offense stronger than last season

By David Martin

Geoff King/Collegian

Last season, one of the biggest problems for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team was offense. Shots were down, too much time was spent in the home end and goals were almost non-existent. Simply put, its offensive game was anemic.

This year, the team has seen a complete change of face.

Though their record may not indicate it, the Minutewomen (3-6-0) have stepped up their attacking game with coach Ed Matz’s offensively-oriented game plan. From early on in the season, the team has consistently played strongly in their opponents’ defensive zone, where pressure has led to lead-taking goals and comeback rallies.

Looking at the numbers, there is no doubt about it.

Last season, the Maroon and White scored 15 goals off 192 shot attempts in 19 games. Already this season, a much younger ball club has 16 goals off of 137 shot attempts. Their goals per game average is also up to 1.78, almost a full point higher than the meek .79 they finished with last season.

Their shot per game total (15.2) is also sitting much higher this season at 15.2, compared to last season’s mark (10.1). Accuracy has also improved, as the team has seen its shots on goal percentage rise from .422 to .526.

Another area where the increased emphasis on offense has had a positive impact is the decrease in shutouts suffered by the Minutewomen. Last season, UMass was shut out nine times on the year, with its last five losses coming by way of the shutout. This season, it has only suffered such a fate three times.

Aside from the team’s 5-0 loss to Michigan and its 3-0 loss to Washington, the club only has losses by a margin of one goal, something that both encourages and discourages Matz.

“It’s good to see that they’re stepping up to opponents’ offensive challenges and keeping the games close,” Matz said. “But these are the games that we have to win. The team has to learn that these are the games that can make the difference between a winning season and a losing season, and most importantly, a chance at the playoffs.”

Matz 4-3-3 strategy is bolstering the Minutewomen’s scoring successes. Last year’s 5-4-1 strategy was too heavily oriented around defense, something that Matz has made sure not to overlook. With the team’s increased offensive skills and abilities, more of the game is being brought to opponents’ faces, and less pressure is being put on the defense.

With the defense facing less pressure in its own zone, it has been better at breaking down opposing offensive rushes and keeping the ball far enough from the net. The extra stamina and energy helps a more veteran defense complement the experience it brings to the field.

At the end of the day, practically every statistical category has improved on a team that has been revitalized by younger players, stronger offense and new coaching guidance.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected].