Matz inspires improved play on both sides of the ball

By David Martin

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In soccer, there are two time-honored philosophies used to approach the game.  One claims that the best offense is a good defense, while the other boasts that the best defense is a strong offense.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

If you asked that question to coach of the Massachusetts women’s soccer team, Ed Matz, he would tell you that both sides need to be balanced in order for a team to be successful.

The Minutewomen, who are coming off of an 8-11-0 season that saw a winning home record and an Atlantic 10 postseason birth in their first season with Matz at the helm, are looking to establish themselves as one of the dominant teams in the division.

“We tried to change the culture of the program, bringing the players to make the 12-month commitment,” said Matz. “The seniors did a great job coming to practice and setting an example for the other players to follow, and they showed the way we want players to be, and that put us in a good position this year.”

With that change in attitude and commitment, UMass worked to improve its offense while maintaining the solid defensive play it is known for.

They scored 28 goals and made 244 shot attempts in 2010, compared to just 15 goals and 192 shots attempted in the previous season. On the defensive side, opposing teams scored 32 goals and attempted 260 shots against the Maroon and White, stats that are both down from the 2009 totals of 33 goals and 363 attempted shots.

With such strong improvements already made, Matz anticipates more moves in the right direction as the team prepares to enter the 2011 season, starting in the defensive end.

“Though the defense is a little young, it’s strong,” said Matz. “In our two scrimmages, we lost 3-2 to a talented UConn team, and in that game the defense did very well, just as did they in our 1-1 tie of Quinnipiac.

“I would really like to see improvement in our offensive game,” added Matz. “We have a lot of talent, but the problem is that everybody wants the ball. They just have to learn what their roles will be and how to work better together on offense, and from that they will really start to click in the offensive zone.”

“They are doing a great job working together, and though it is going to take time to have full confidence in each other and the system, they are learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are starting to build from them,” he added.

The key to both feeding an offensive surge as well as maintaining a healthy defense is found in the senior staff, the same group Matz drew from last year to help lead UMass to the A-10 playoffs.

“Replacing [last year’s seniors] will be extremely hard,” said Matz. “They had great leadership and they gave the team identity. In overtime or a big game, they stepped up, and now we need to find people who will fill in those roles.”

A few players from both sides of the field are already showing significant promise in picking up where last season’s senior staff left off.

On offense, senior Deanna Colarossi has already shown that she is “strong” and “ready to be a big part on the offense.” On defense, seniors Meghan Collins and Lindsey DiOrio are showing that they are more than capable of being the backbone when it comes to playing in their own zone.

“All three have worked very hard, both in camp and during the offseason, and they are all looking to be leaders on this team” said Matz.

As the fall season draws ever closer, leadership and work ethic will be in full supply for the Minutewomen eying much more than just a good year.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected]