Minutewomen attempt to add wins before hitting postseason

By Scott Cournoyer

Since losing to La Salle on Oct. 16 in overtime, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team has pulled out a pair of 1-0 victories against Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, sustaining elite status in Atlantic 10 play.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

UMass (11-3-2, 5-1-1 A-10) will go on the road for its last two games of the season, beginning Friday when the Minutewomen travel to the nation’s capital to face George Washington and then concluding at Richmond on Sunday.

Junior goalkeeper Emily Cota ranks statistically as one of the best in the nation. Cota’s .905 save percentage puts her at sixth in the country, while she ranks 15th in goals-against (.568).

“Although I’d say the defense as a whole has been successful this season, Emily is a big part of that,” said UMass coach Ed Matz. “She’s great at coming out of the box when she needs to make a play and is really good at getting to and holding onto the ball when it comes in.”

The Minutewomen have played sound defense all year long. UMass has recorded eight shutouts this season, including a streak of five between Sept. 11 and Oct. 1. To put the team’s performance in perspective, UMass ranks third in the conference in goals allowed (five), tied with GW for second in saves (45) and tied for shutout in conference play with four.

To put it through an even larger lens, the Minutewomen rank 24th in the country in the shutout percentage (.563) and 15th in save percentage (.870).

Beyond Cota, another huge factor for the why the defense has stepped it up this season is the team’s performance off of senior Meghan Collins, who’s ability to read plays a step ahead has created takeaways in the midfield.

“She’s been huge for us,” said Matz. “She has the tremendous ability to read plays and fill space. When games are finished and I talk to coaches, they all rave about her play and say that teams have to account for her.”

Offensively, although the team hasn’t found opportunities to outscore opponents at a wide margin, UMass puts the ball in the net during crunch time. Of their 21 goals scored this year, 10 have come in either the second half or overtime. The lone overtime goal came against out-of-conference opponent Brown back on Sept. 22 in a thrilling 1-0 win, which saw a combined 26 shots on net.

The main cog in the offensive machine for the Minutewomen is newcomer senior forward Julie Morrissey. Morrissey, a transfer from Cincinnati currently leads the team in goals (seven) and points (14) this season. In UMass’ pair of 1-0 wins against the Dukes and Bonnies last weekend, Morrissey netted both goals to lead the charge as the conference tournament creeps into the picture in the coming weeks.

“I feel like we really came out prepared and ready to go,” said Matz of the team’s mental preparation going into both matchups last week. “We have a mindset of taking one game at a time, something that’s hard to do when you have a big opponent coming up and you’re facing a team right before. [This group of players this season] has stayed focus the whole time and it will only help them at the end.”

Emerging as of late has been freshman forward Tori Sousa, whose aggressive style of play has given the team another offensive threat to go to. Before St. Bonaventure, Sousa had recorded a point in three-straight games, including a goal against both Fordham (Oct. 14) and La Salle.

“[Sousa’s] very good at working the ball up and down the field,” said Matz. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out, because she so aggressive, but over time, she will learn when to take those chances on the ball and when not to. She’s been really good for us.”

Friday’s and Sunday’s games against George Washington and Richmond will conclude the regular season for the Minutewomen, before they head to Dayton, Ohio to begin A-10 tournament play, running Nov. 3-6.

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.