Minutewomen bounce back to take 1st win of 2012 season

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

SMITHFIELD, R.I. — Fresh off a disappointing loss to No. 6 UCLA to start the season, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team bounced back with a 3-2 win at Bryant on Wednesday to grab its first victory of the 2012 campaign.

UMass (1-1) encountered a tough test in Smithfield, R.I., against the Bulldogs but coach Ed Matz acknowledged that his team may have come to the third match with a different mindset than the one on display over the weekend.

“Emotionally, we had a little bit of a let down from the UCLA match, but that was to be expected,” Matz said. “We had a couple of injuries that forced us to make a couple of changes, like Lauren Skesavage being out. We had a lot of banged up players going out.”

“It wasn’t an easy game and they walked off the field, their heads are down and I said, ‘Hey, a win is a win.’”

UMass were first on the score sheet, in the 24th minute, against the run of play. Jess Howe attempted a ball into Jen Coppola, which was cut out by the defense. However, Coppola didn’t give up on the play, stealing the ball straight back from the defender, and, being one-on-one with the netminder, calmly slotted into the bottom opposite corner.

“It’s been a big point [in practice] for the wing-forwards to come forward and find the defense,” Coppola said. “I just knew I had to come in, made a touch, and I was shocked that I got in front of the girl, and I just was so composed that I just put it in the back of the net. Didn’t even see the goalie.”

In the 42nd minute, Moa Mattsson opened up a late half flurry of goals with a stunning 35-yard shot, lobbing it over the keeper for her second goal of the season to put the Minutewomen up by a pair.

“I turn and see the keeper is pretty far out, and give it a shot, and I see the ball go in,” Mattsson said. “We’ve been talking about that a lot in practice. If I see the goalie far out, just try to get it over and this time I succeeded.”

Matz was full of praise of the long shot, citing necessity as the reason Mattsson has moved to a more forward role, away from her natural midfield position.

“That first goal was incredible. She picked her head up, saw where the keeper was, and took a shot,” Matz said.

Just a minute later, the Bulldogs were on the score sheet from a set piece just outside UMass’ penalty area. Senior midfielder Alex Bengston added her second goal of the season, bending a free kick over the wall, past Stephanie Gordon, off the post and in to bring Bryant back into the game at 2-1.

“The set pieces are something we’re working on [still],” Matz said. “It’s something we would have benefited from having Lauren [Skesavage] back there. She’s our captain on defense.”

However, Mattsson left no time for the Bulldogs to savor the goal, scoring her second goal of the game just 21 seconds later. Alyssa D’Arcy slipped a ball past the defenders right on to Mattsson’s feet, easily firing it past goalkeeper Lauren Viverito to put UMass up 3-1 going into the half.

When the game resumed, Bryant was in hot pursuit of another goal to bring itself back into the game, registering seven shots in the first nine minutes.

Their persistence paid off when Madison Smith fouled Ari Goldberg just inside the box, awarding the Bulldogs a penalty kick. Goldberg hit the underside of the bar and the ball bounced into the net to make it 3-2.

Matz was not pleased with the foul call.

“I think the official had missed a couple of calls early on in the game, and I think that he decided that the next questionable foul was going to go against UMass,” Matz said.

The win for the Minutewomen comes quickly after opening their season against the Bruins and an exhibition match against Boston College. Matz believes that while the quick turn around has left many players “banged up,” the competition set his team up well for the match with Bryant.

“I think the level of competition that we’ve played against [Boston College] and UCLA certainly helped,” Matz said. “Those are two premier institutions and I think it helped us early on.”

Matz’s players echoed his sentiments but also attributed a lot to their preseason practice, to build up their fitness to the point where they could play back-to-back games at a high level.

“We worked really hard during preseason and we worked on fitness a lot there,” Coppola said. “We’re in shape and it’s helping our fitness but we’re also banged up. So it’s not a great thing but it’s not a bad thing.”

“It’s also important to recover mentally,” Mattsson said. “[The games] come quickly and we have to be ready for every game.”

The games continue to come quickly, with four days separating the Minutewomen from its next test: a home match against Albany on Sunday afternoon.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.