Defense, Minutewomen gaining confidence heading into A-10 play

By Chris Corso

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To say that the Massachusetts women’s soccer team has played dominant defense as of late might not be giving it enough credit.

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Over the past four games, the Minutewomen defense has allowed just one score. During that span, UMass has gone 3-1 and worked its way back to .500 at 5-5.

The emergence of senior goalkeeper Emily Cota has really had a positive effect on the performance of the Minutewomen heading into their Atlantic 10 conference games this weekend.

Cota’s three shutouts in the past two weeks rank her second in the A-10, only trailing Butler goalkeeper Mackenzie Hopkins and her four shutouts. Cota and fellow goalkeeper Stephanie Gordon have also recorded a combined 86 saves in just 10 games played, which is the largest total in the conference.

UMass coach Ed Matz has confidence in the team moving forward.

“We could be on a four-game winning streak right now if it wasn’t for a bad break at Brown, with the ball going in off of one of our own players heads,” Matz said in an interview with UMass Athletics. “We feel pretty good right now. We have a lot of confidence.”

The Minutewomen’s schedule this season has certainly played into their favor, and has only added to that confidence.

The team began its non-conference schedule playing three ranked teams in its first six games of the season, including contests against No. 6 UCLA, No. 17 Wake Forest and No. 25 Virginia Tech.

Through those first six games, the young Minutewomen defense was put to the test and they only posted mediocre 2-4 record. But it appears that span helped the team grow and has prepared them to make a run as they start their A-10 campaign against Dayton at home this Friday.

Since then, UMass has outscored its opponents, 4-1, over the past two weeks, proving that its conference schedule has arrived just in time.

UMass familiar with Dayton

Matz and the rest of the UMass squad are very familiar with its conference foe, Dayton.

The Flyers sent the Minutewomen on a long, disappointing trip home last season after suffering a heartbreaking, 5-1 defeat in the A-10 championship game on Nov. 6 in Dayton, Ohio.

Confident and upbeat, UMass and Matz are prepared to give Dayton a taste of revenge to begin conference play in front of its hometown fans.

“The game is at our field and it’s going to be a huge game,” Matz said in an interview with UMass Athletics. “Our defense has to hold strong and we have to create some chances.”

Friday’s game marks the beginning of the Minutewomen’s journey towards a return to the A-10 championship game.

“I just told the players in this week of practice that the way the A-10 schedule works out, it couldn’t be any better,” Matz said in an interview with UMass Athletics. “The two teams that met in the A-10 championship last year are going to meet on Friday. … It’s going to be a huge game.”

Chris Corso can be reached at [email protected]